3D printing also known as rapid prototyping technology is the design process where computer programming guides the creation of a three dimensional model through the layering of fabrication material. Engineers, designers and technicians would benefit from advanced prototype production. Recently new technologies have been developed producing many advantages for those needing rapid prototype technology. The 3D printers available today are faster, easier and more affordable than previous fabrication technologies. 3D printing has also eliminated the need for expensive tools and skilled craftsmen to produce design prototypes, making the process more affordable, cost efficient and desirable.
3D Printer Technology
The 3D printers technology is quite simple to understand really; computer assisted design software (CAD) directs an inkjet nozzle to extrude small amounts of material in layers to form a three dimensional model. Almost like building a sand castle at the beach. By adding layer upon layer the CAD software is able to calculate length, width and height requirements from design specifications and guide the process toward completion of a 3 dimensional model. Traditional prototypes were built from solid blocks of material and the excess was cut away until the model was produced but with today’s technology the models are built from the ground up with no excess. Of course the sophistication of designs and materials used will impact the time required to produce individual 3D prototypes.
Individual 3D printing needs will differ and so the materials used in prototyping will differ also. In rapid prototyping the materials used can range from plasters, resins and advanced polymers. The choice of design material depends on the required durability, lifespan or sophistication level of the model to be fabricated. Fused deposition modeling techniques use liquid polymers from injectors to create models. In this process the 3D Printer injects photopolymers layer by layer on to a base platform and then the materials are cured with ultraviolet light. Inkjet printing techniques differ as they use granular substances such as plaster, powder or corn starch and combine the materials with an adhesive which bonds the model together to produce a 3D prototype.
3D Printer Advantages
The new technology of 3D printing produces advantages in the areas of speed, cost, and simplicity. Engineers and design technicians can use 3D printing during the conceptual stages of design. A rapid prototype enhances the design process by providing a 3 dimensional model of the design. Having an actual model to see and manipulate during various stages of the design process can help designers and engineers to facilitate prototype corrections, enhancements and project completion.
Also, unlike some prototyping techniques the 3D printing advantage produces no toxic chemicals from the process nor uses any toxins during the process. An additional advantage gained from using rapid prototyping technology is post production work is minimal, only the removal of excess materials produced during the printing process is necessary. The advantages of 3D printing are many including reduced costs, efficiency and safety. As new innovations in 3D printing technology become available so will additional advantages.