3D Printing: The Basics

Posted: June 8, 2012 in Growing your Business
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Also called as additive printing, 3D printing is the process of creating three-dimensional objects from digital files. It involves the additive process, where a certain object is made by laying down layers of material. 3D printing is performed using a materials printer. In the past few years, the industry has seen a surge in the growth of sales for these unique 3D printing machines. This fairly new technology has already found its way in many industries such as architecture, industrial design, footwear, jewelry, aerospace, automotive, education, civil engineering, and many more.

How does 3D Printing Work?

The printer uses the process called two-photon lithography with the use of a special kind of liquid resin. The resin contains molecules that cause the liquid surrounding them to harden into a polymer when exposed to laser. The polymer needs to absorb two photons of that light for it to be activated. The only position where the beam is intense enough is at the middle. This enables precision in the printing process, as the only active part is the middle part.

Unlike the conventional printing process, this two-photon lithography enables solid materials to be created anywhere within the depth of the resin. It is not limited to simply adding a surface layer of hardened substance.

Industrial Uses
  • Rapid prototyping. Even in the early 1980s, industrial 3D printers have been used for research purposes and rapid prototyping. These are bigger machines that utilize proprietary materials, plastics or cartridges, casting media, and are used for rapid prototyping uses by commercial companies and educational institutions.
  • Rapid manufacturing. This new method of manufacturing still has many unproven processes. RP technology advances have brought the ability to use materials that are great for final manufacture. 3D manufacturing is slowly getting into the field of rapid manufacturing and is believe by many to emerge as the ‘next level’ technology.
Domestic Use

There are a few companies making efforts to manufacture 3D printers for desktop use at prices that most households can afford. Much of the work is driven by early adopter/DIY communities. Prices of 3D printing kits vary, starting from $350 for the SeeMeCNC to $2,000 for the Makerbot Replicator. Check out other 3D printer reviews online for more models, brands, and designs.

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