3D printing has quickly become an industry standard. From Dungeons and Dragons figurines and jewelry production, to home construction projects, 3D printers are helping designers bring their concepts to life.
First, design a virtual prototype using CAD software as this will act as a blueprint for the printer to follow.
3D printing allows designers to quickly create physical prototypes of their work, providing an opportunity for better comprehension and visualization prior to production. Furthermore, this method makes changes faster and cheaper than with traditional methods, thus cutting manufacturing costs while keeping pace with consumer demands more rapidly.
Some tech experts predict that 3D printing will soon become an invaluable solution to numerous business and societal needs, including medical devices and housing units. Forbes Technology Council members share examples from around the globe.
3D printing can be traced back to practices like topography and photosculpture, with Blanther’s layer-by-layer approach for making molds of raised relief paper topographical maps serving as an early precursor of 3D printing, while 19th century sculptors employed photohardening resin to craft detailed models.
Commercial printers today use FDM or SLA printing techniques, typically plastics such as ABS or PLA, but metals and concrete may also be used. Some materials require temperature controls while others cannot be printed at all; additionally, large prints must be assembled manually by joining individual parts back together after being produced separately – an increase in time and costs as well as potential quality issues with durability.
Once prototyping of a new product has concluded, companies turn to rapid manufacturing for final production. With this type of printing technology available today, businesses can drastically decrease the time required to bring products to market by outsourcing to experienced third-party rapid manufacturers.
Additive manufacturing (AM) refers to a technology in 3D printing known as adding layers upon layers of solid objects instead of cutting away at existing structures as is done traditionally during manufacturing processes. AM begins by first creating a computer-aided design model of what needs to be printed; once complete it’s converted to an STL file for printing by 3D printers.
Printing objects requires adding layers of material one on top of another to form complex forms not possible with traditional manufacturing processes, such as hollow interiors or curved surface features. One example is GE Aviation’s Cobalt-Chrome fuel nozzles which weigh 25 percent less and five times stronger compared to those made using traditional processes.
3D printing also enables the creation of personalized and customized parts to improve ergonomics and safety. Many items that we rely on daily, such as doors, chairs, keyboards and clothing are typically designed for people of an average build. Unfortunately, this leaves out those whose builds differ substantially resulting in discomfort or disability for those outside this range.
Contrasting rapid prototyping, which uses an inkjet-type process where layers of wax or plastic-like polymers are added successively using an inkjet printer, additive manufacturing utilizes lasers or light to fuse powdered materials together into solid objects using laser beams or light sources. This method works well for industrial applications where parts need to be made quickly and precisely.
There are various types of additive manufacturing, with Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) being the most prevalent. First, a CAD model must be created and cut into thin sections so the printer can read them. Once placed onto a building platform, a layer of desired material is then laid down onto it before laser beams “sinner,” or melt it, to its desired shape. Once finished, this platform vertically lowers to expose new powder layers for melting/fusing with each previous layer until eventually the product is complete. This process continues until finally finished product complete!
3D printing offers more than just replacement parts; it can also produce customized components to make existing products more effective. For instance, knee implants may feature porous structures designed to facilitate tissue growth and integration for long-term success.2
Product and equipment designed with average build sizes in mind may lead to discomfort or disability for individuals who do not conform. Custom-fitted 3D printed products offer greater ergonomics and safety for everyone involved.
3D printers can be an invaluable asset when creating medical models for surgery planning, patient education and drug testing. Models created on real human tissue or from templates created using medical imaging are valuable assets that aid surgeons.
Radiologists can create an exact model of a patient’s spine to plan surgery, while surgeons can practice procedures on printed models before performing the operation on patients, thus reducing error risk and optimizing outcomes.
Some doctors are even printing their own medical equipment with 3D printers. One ophthalmology resident used a 3D printer to print molds of eye conditions detectable via ultrasound so students and residents could conduct repeated vaginal ultrasound exams without subjecting patients to repeated exams.
Medical models can also be an effective way of showing patients their CT or MRI scans, helping them gain a better understanding of their anatomy while improving doctor-patient communication.
Researchers are exploring printing organs and tissues such as blood, bone, heart, skin and other organs similar to humans’, such as bone marrow. Such models could potentially assist with treating diseases or injuries like brain aneurysms. Recently scientists created a synthetic heart valve made out of biomaterials with collagen-based hydrogel material similar to what would be found in an actual heart valve of humans and will soon undergo testing in sheep.