At its most basic, 3-dimensional printing, which is otherwise known also as additive manufacturing technique, is a popular manufacturing process where your material is laid down in a layer by layer fashion, eventually forming a 3-dimensional object.
It is also considered as an additive process considering the fact that the object will be built from scratch whereas in a subtractive process the target object that you will be making will be built from drilling, cutting, milling, or machining off.
While 3D printing machines can use a wide range of techniques and materials, they can make use of digital files with 3-dimensional data. This can come in the form of CAD or computer-aided design or CAM (computer-aided-manufacturing program). It can also utilize a 3D scanner in forming physical objects.
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Do we even qualify 3D Printing as Printing?
3D printing can be looked at as a qualified printing process, although not in the traditional sense that it was defined. With respect to how Webster’s defines it, printing would be centering on the production of a printed matter, photographs, or publications – produced by means of applied pressure or impression.
As can be gleaned from those definitions, neither of them would be fitting 3D printing. But if you will look at it from a technological perspective, 3-dimensional printing would fall under traditional printing outgrowth where a layer of material would be applied. This is usually the ink.
The ink is usually so thin that makes its height hardly noticeable, even though it would be somewhat thicker for solid ink printers. The 3D printing method does a great job in extending that height and does so by applying multiple layers. Therefore, it is reasonable enough to expand our traditional definition of printing so that it will also cover the 3-dimensional object fabrication.
What Are the Benefits of 3D Printing?
3D printing makes it possible for designers, architects, and engineers to transform the ideas and concepts they conceived in their minds into 3-dimensional models or otherwise known as prototypes. Industries also know this concept as “rapid prototyping”.
Rapid prototyping also makes way for the immediate implementation of necessary design tweaks or changes. If you are a manufacturing body, the 3D printing Australia industry lets you create products on-demand as opposed to creating large runs. By this, you have better chances of improving your inventory management efforts and thus you will reduce your warehouse space consumption.
Compared to subtractive techniques, 3-dimensional printing, from a practical standpoint, can save you money and materials since it minimizes the wastage of your raw materials. In addition to that, it also holds the key to effecting beautiful changes in the manufacturing sphere. Imagine consumers who are in need of an electronic part or device, can resort to just downloading their files for printing right in the comfort of their own homes.
Required Software for 3D Printing
Almost all 3D printing machines we have today are accepting files in the STL format, which is named after stereolithography. Any CAD software can produce this special format of the file, starting from AutoCAD and other similar expensive commercial packages down to free or what is referred to as open-source products like Blender and Google SketchUp.
If you are not inclined to make your own 3D file, you can turn to MakerBots Thingiverse. They offer a wide spectrum of 3D object files from their databases. These files can be downloaded, and you are free to print them out for your own needs.
If you will buy a 3D printing machine, know that they usually come with a software suite. This can be supplied to you on a disk. Most of the time, you can download the same from the manufacturer’s website just in case you lose your software disk.
These program suite packages are usually custom programs that let you control the slicer and printer. In preparation for the additive manufacturing process, the software will format the object file into layers and this will be based upon your preset or selected resolution, in conjunction with many other factors.
You might come across bundle suites that say they can “heal” your object files. When you do so, don’t confuse yourself around it because this only means to say that it will auto-correct problems in your file that could get in the way of smooth printing.
Some 3D printing machines make it possible to choose component programs that you will download as opposed to just settling yourself with whatever the program suite provides you with.