Report: What is 3D Printing?
Fancy the idea of having the most precious piece of art that you covet on your mantelpiece, it sounds unreal, yes, but this is exactly what the revolutionary 3D printing technology can actually do. The technology that has come up with some of the interesting and breathtaking innovations of our times is predicted to change our world as dramatically as internet did before it.
From replacement of body organs like kidneys to metal guns, cars, prosthetics and works of art, 3D printing technology is set to revolutionize and transform our lives in the coming decades.
Bioprinting is among the most mind-blowing and promising uses of 3D printing. It is now possible to use 3D printers to print cells that can multiply into actual fully printed tissues used in medical research… and to create organs.
The moment you get into the imaginary world of 3D printing with the aforementioned, not many tend to fully understand the concept of 3D printing. How it works? What is the technology? How do 3D printers work, really confuses you?
Let us deconstruct the concept of 3D technology to help you understand it better.
What is 3D technology?
3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. During this process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the entire object is created, and each of these layers then can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.
How it works
The initial starts with making a virtual design of the object you want to create. This virtual design is then made in a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file using a 3D modeling program (for the creation of a totally new object) or, is made with the use of a 3D scanner (to copy an existing object). The scanner then makes a 3D digital copy of an object and puts it into a 3D modeling program.
To prepare the digital file created in a 3D modeling program for printing, the software slices the final model into hundreds or thousands of horizontal layers. When this prepared file is uploaded in the 3D printer, the printer then begins to create the object layer by layer. The 3D printer reads every slice (or 2D image) and proceeds to create the object blending each layer together with no sign of the layering visible, resulting in one three dimensional object.
Methods and technologies
Not all 3D printers use the same technology to realize their objects. There are several ways to do it. Till 2012, the technology used were additive, differing mainly in the way layers are build to create the final object. While some methods use melting or softening material to produce the layers. Selective laser sintering (SLS) and fused deposition modeling (FDM) were other common technologies that uses this way of printing. Yet another method of printing is to lay liquid materials that are cured with different technologies, and the most common technology using this method is called stereolithography (SLA)-This technology uses a high power laser to fuse small particles of plastic, metal, ceramic or glass powders into a mass that has the desired three dimensional shapes. The laser selectively fuses the powdered material by scanning the cross-sections (or layers) generated by the 3D modeling program on the surface of a powder bed. After each cross-section is scanned, the powder bed is lowered by one layer thickness. Then a new layer of material is applied on top and the process is repeated until the object is completed. All untouched powder remains as it is and becomes a support structure for the object, which is an advantage over SLS and SLA.
-Dr Deepshikha Chauhan (With input from agencies)