The World of 3D Printing
Have you ever seen a 3D printer in the works somewhere in a store or on a YouTube video? Bet you have the same question as everyone else, how does this process work? Well lets start off on what 3D printing is exactly, 3D printing is “ a process of making 3 dimensional solid objects from a digital file”. When you think about it the whole process is basically starting from nothing and ending with something. Building up layers of material using an additive mechanism to end up with a desired outcome. It all starts with a creative mind and the right equipment.
Where to begin?
First thing you have to do is come up with an idea of an object that you would like to create. Be creative the world of 3D printing is endless, you can create prosthetics, organs, props even a house and random things that make our daily lives just a little bit easier. Don’t have a creative mind? you can buy pre-designed models online where you can download a file to be transferred on to your desired software. Once you have your object in mind you have to program it into a software to process your design. There are many software’s to choose from but you must choose the one that meets your needs and expectations. There is industry wide software’s that can program large objects that cost a lot of money and then there are the software’s that anybody at home can download for free. Similar to the needs of your software same pertains to your printer because a bigger printer equals a bigger project that is attainable. Once you got your ideas and your materials ready you are on the right path to begin the actual process.
Scanning, slicing, transfer oh my!
Finally, the starting process! It’s time to use your creative mind and create your design on a modeling software or data generator with a 3D scanner which is the digital copy of an object that you downloaded on the web. Once your design is right in front of you on the screen and it is perfected to the way you want it, it’s time for the slicing process. What is slicing you may ask? 3D printing.com states that slicing is the “preparation of the model before the next step of printing” .What slicing does is that it divides the model into thousands of horizontal layers done by the ‘slicing’ part of the software. By doing this it breaks down the model into layers that will properly be printed to precision. A proper slicing software is very important because the printer its self can’t break down the model into accurate layers. The software gives directions for the printer to follow to create a precise replica. The next step once the slicing process is done is to make sure before you transfer the information you have to have the model under a CAD file (computer aided design) and a .STL extension (standard tessellation language) this helps the information be projected into the printer accurately. A USB or SD card will be used to actually transfer the data.
Different printers/Materials and Usages
Now that we have the information ready to transfer it’s good to know what type of printers are out there. The most common desk printer is called fused deposition which spits out the material on a XYZ coordinate. Another printer that is available is the Electron Beam Melting which is primarily used to melt down metallic powder to fabricate aerospace parts and medical implants. The most important printer of them all is the printer that started it all called the Stereolothography created by Chuck Hall in 1983. All3P says that the printer uses photosensitive liquid resin to be hardened by a laser beam. Energy.gov said that Hull was an engineer and physicist. His additive process helped use up to 98% of the raw materials used where as other processes would waste on average 30 pounds of every one pound distributed.
Some raw materials used range from metals, fabrics, plastics to rubbers. People like to use 3D printing because of the quick cheap mass production and the usage of less materials. Another reason is because people can create a prototype of something to see how it looks before the actual finished product, Just to get a feel in how the product will actually look like. Fossbyte gave a bunch of examples on what can be created by the printer such as tools, clips, and organizers besides the other given examples. The handy creations has helped the medical fields, with organ transplants, tools for businesses and much more. An alternative is a 3D printing pen which does the same process but the holder of the pen is in control of the movement and direction of the material.
Dissecting the Printer
Important thing to know about all this is how the parts work in the printer and how they all have an individual role in creating the object. Starting off the piece that spits out the material, it’s called the extruder and it is broken down into two parts the hot end and the cool end. The hot end is the part where the filament (material) is melted and pushed out onto the platform. The cool end is the actual motorized part the draws the filament from a spool like device similar to a fishing rod spool of twine. That material is then spun off into the extruders hot end where it becomes flexible. The product and platform is heated to prevent the object from warping due to “thermal contractions” which is the material cooling down and shrinks. To break down the two parts even more is the Hobbed Gear which is the piece that grasps on to the material and the Idler Gear is what actually pushes the filament against the Hobbed Gear to push through both ends. The Idler is a “spring loaded wheel” which gives the momentum.
Heating and Control
The heat is distributed by a heater cartridge that can heat materials from 12 volts to 24 volts depending on the system. A thermistor is the sensor that transmits to the hot end to determine the temperature. The nozzle is the piece with a small hole where the melted filament comes out and can be moved in 2 ways. The XYZ axis which is called Caretesian and Delta is where there is 3 arms that come to the center to move at different rates. The processes are moves by tension belts ran by stepper motors. Stepper motors rotate in increments to control precise position for the arms or axis to move. The stepper drivers are the part that runs the motors by a coil sequence. The motors are controlled by a power supply which is 120 volts of electricity from the wall. The motherboard is where everything is transferred to and where all the commands are given out. To see what the commands are exactly A LCD screen is provided to showcase those commands. When the project is all said and done there are the “end stops” which tells the printer that the last layer is over and that its time to shut down.
The Ending Products
Here is the end where the once digital file is now an actual object in your hands. It’s crazy how you think something is so simple but yet so complex. In the matter of minutes and hours each part comes together as one and creates something to add to the collection of the world of 3D printing.