3D printing has reached its peak and is now making way into mainstream industrialisation. Though many of us are hearing about it only now, 3D printing has been used by engineers and designers for decades. So what is 3D printing?
3D printing in simple terms is the process of manufacturing physical objects from digital files using a 3D printer. 3D printing requires large and expensive printers occupying lots of space. 3D printing is also called additive manufacturing, which is the industrial name for the former.
Additive manufacturing is defined as a computer control process of creating 3-dimensional objects layer by layer by depositing materials. Each of these layers is a thinly sliced cross-section of the object. 3D printing enables us to produce unique, and complex objects with less raw material as compared to that in traditional methods.
How does 3D printing work?
The first step of this process is to design a 3D model. For this we must first choose a suitable tool, many are available on the internet from industrial grade to opensource. After the design is complete, a printable file of the model is generated. This printable now needs to be made ready for the 3D printer by the method of slicing.
This is the step where the printable file is sliced into thousands of layers. This sliced file is now ready to be uploaded into your 3D printer. This can be done with the help of USBs or WiFi.
3D printing has numerous applications in our society today. Some of which are in – dental products, prosthetics, movie props, industrial products, replicating ancient artefacts, forensic pathology and more.
So one must know if 3D printing is the right choice for you. The given below advantages and disadvantages print a clear picture of 3D printing.
Advantages of 3D printing
1. One of the most important advantages of 3D printing is speed, also known as rapid prototyping. It is the ability to design, manufacture and test the part in as less time as possible, while also ensuring that we could easily modify the design without adversely affecting the manufacturing process.
2. Small-scale businesses benefited from 3D printing. Any enthusiast can manufacture almost anything they liked. They don’t need finance for large warehouses and machinery and can get creative with the very little they possess. They are free of constraints from the contactors and can customize, create and sell to whomsoever they wish from the comfort of their home.
3. Fabricating an object layer by layer based on a blueprint allows one to limitlessly customize the product till the very end.
4. 3D printing is the choice to produce one-offs or rear replacement parts.
5. For small runs, 3D printing is cheaper as less hardware is required.
6. Waste generated is also less as products are built from scratch. Most materials used are recycled which makes 3D printing highly sustainable.
7. 3D printing can be used to generate accurate interior detailing and to combine separate parts all in one run.
8. With 3D printing, parts are printed one after another which makes it easier to pinpoint errors or mismatches. Therefore, it reduces the number of failed parts and is more consistent.
9. A given printer can create just about anything that fits its volume. In other processes, every modification or change requires a new tool.
10. Another crucial advantage is the ability to create geometries that are impossible to create by other processes as a single piece or at all.
11. 3D printing does not require the user to have CAD knowledge. With very little knowledge the designs could be created or modified as per as desired choices to instil the uniqueness of product one wishes.
12. Companies can thus let their customers customize according to their taste. This also means different materials could be tried and used to yield the best output.
13. 3D printers require very little personnel to supervise and are fully automated by default.
14. 3D printers can be much easily obtained by large sections of people making them widely accessible.
Disadvantages of 3D Printing
1. The speed may have its drawbacks as well. The layer by layer process requires a fixed amount of time. So in cases of mass production, the amount of time necessary to finish every part would be the same. This makes overall time consumption high. To produce a product from start to end it may take a significant amount of time more for the whole process to carry out.
2. A traditional process mass manufacturing would use fewer resources and energy as compared to 3D printing. Thus making 3D printing less sustainable when in terms of mass production.
3. The most significant drawback of 3D printing is the final quality of the part. 3D printing is based on the layer over layer approach which at its foundation inherits weakness.
4. At the time the layer over layer approach ends up showing lines on the product making it not as alluring as we would like.
MIT World Peace University