3D printing allows anyone to easily create objects of various shapes, even at home.
Unlike the huge machines installed in factories, modern desktop 3D printers are compact, cheap, and simple enough to start without much training.
You can print many different things on a 3D printer. Does your child want a new toy? Print it. Is your door knob broken? Print a new one. A custom-designed cup? Why not? It is often cheaper and faster to print something yourself than buying it from a store. Moreover, sometimes the simplest items are not available for sale. For example, racks for shelves, appliances for kitchen, stands of the required size and design.
The technology is already quite mature, and the quality of 3D printed products is constantly improving. It's easy to imagine the near future when every home has a 3D printer. This may never happen, but 3D printers are available to everyone right now.
Who uses 3D printing?
Due to the abundance of possibilities that 3D printing offers, it is popular and used by a wide range of people and organizations.
Teachers and students
It is said that learning by doing is the best way to understand something. 3D printing is a great way to bring this hands-on form of learning into the classroom. Instead of being passive spectators or listeners, this allows students to create and learn from their creations.
Very often in schools, a 3D printer is used to teach digital production, from project sketches to their implementation. In particular, on the example of printing thematic magnets.
The work with the printer is carried out, so the students themselves launc their models to print, and a webcam is installed on the printer; the online broadcast allowed students from the entire school to observe the process to increase the participation of all students.
After going through the full cycle of work with the printer once, the students memorize the main pros and cons of printing and then, already in other subjects and in other projects, use it: for example, printing small skeletons of dinosaurs for a diorama of a geochronological scale (Geography), or printing a model of a refrigerator for demonstration of the operation of the Peltier element (physics).
Needlemens, also known as makers and DIYers, are people who solve their problems on their own, often cheaper and faster than you can buy ready-made solutions in a store.
It's no surprise that makers have mastered 3D printing. They use this technology to do everything they need, from computer cases to cosplay costumes.
Designers and Artists
Designers have long used 3D printers to create product models and prototypes quickly, but they are increasingly being used to make final products. Products made with 3D printers include shoes, furniture, wax castings for jewelry making, tools, tripods, gifts and novelties, and toys.
The biggest user of 3D printing is, of course, the industry. Let's take a quick look at which industry players have embraced 3D print and how they can transform their manufacturing processes.
Automotive and aviation manufacturers
Formula 1 racing teams use 3D printing to prototype, test, and ultimately create racing car parts.
Large companies like Mercedes use 3D printing extensively for prototyping and manufacturing.
GE Aviation and Safran have developed a method to 3D print jet fuel injectors, allowing them to replace complex assemblies with one superior piece.
Doctors and Dentists
Doctors and dentists use 3D printing to create aids and prostheses that patients need.
Hearing aids, braces, aligners, and limb prostheses can be easily made for the patient using 3D printing, avoiding manual labor. Most of the hearing aids you see today are 3D printed.
Chefs and food manufacturers
Edible 3D print allows food manufacturers to explore tastes before mass production.
Chocolate products of the most sophisticated forms can now be made in any quantity. Previously, this would require ordering silicone molds for molding or cutting each product by hand, which implies completely different costs and time.
With 3D scanning, you can create a style that's perfect for anyone. Imagine shoes, glasses, and clothing that are made just for you. The fusion of traditional materials with modern 3D printed elements also creates clothing with completely new properties.
For example, did you know that Adidas has been making 3D shoes for quite some time now? Adidas, Reebok, and many other shoe manufacturers are looking to use 3D printing technology to mass-produce shoes.
Architects and construction companies
Before 3D printing, architects build scale models by hand, creating each piece separately. Today, they can quickly and easily print large-scale 3D models of buildings directly from existing CAD files used in architectural design.
At the College of Modern Technology, a 3D printer is used to learn how to work with 3D printing in construction. It is used for printing small architectural forms of benches, pedestals, and relief elements.
What skills do you need to work with 3D printing?
If you are a beginner, you may need to improve your skills before you are ready for each of these steps.
- Creation of 3D models. If you want to create your own 3D models, you will need to familiarize yourself with 3D design programs. Please note that this is not necessary, as you can always download the models from the Internet.
CAD software is different from each other, so it is recommended to choose one program and master its interface and capabilities fully.
Fortunately, there are very good tutorials for almost all popular CAD software products downloaded online or bought from a bookstore. Start with basic tutorials on how to create simple models and, when you are confident in your knowledge, move on to advanced tutorials on designing more complex objects. With enough willingness and diligence, you can master the creation of 3D models in a few weeks.
- Slicer and printer control. Slicer and printer operations are not always plug-and-play. Difficulties can occur, and you need to be knowledgeable enough to troubleshoot and troubleshoot common problems yourself.
- You must set up your printer and calibrate it before you can start printing your designs. The process is not overly complicated, and each printer comes with its assembly and calibration instructions.
- Some 3D models may have overhanging features. Since the 3D printer prints layer by layer, it cannot print dangling parts.
- To print them, you need to create support in the slicer. The location and frequency of supports will depend on the slicer; in the settings, these parameters can be changed.
- After printing is completed, the supports are removed manually if printed with the model material or diluted with a suitable solvent if printed with a special solvent material.
- The creation of models with soluble supports is possible only on printers that support printing with more than one material, with two (or more) extruders.
- Sometimes, even if the printer is correctly calibrated and there are no errors in the model, the print quality will be terrible. This can happen for several reasons. For example, the first layer may not adhere properly to the printed substrate.
- The printing temperature may not be ideal for the material you are using. If the material cools too quickly, it can shrink or warp. You will need to investigate these common problems and fix them by changing the appropriate settings in your slicer or printing program.
This is why it is better to buy a popular 3D printer with a large user community; if you have a common 3D printer, you can always find the necessary information on the net or ask on the forum.
How does 3D printing work?
Everyone familiar with the operation of a conventional inkjet printer that prints documents will easily understand how a 3D printer works.
For example, if you want to print something useful, like a case for your smartphone, the procedure would be as follows:
- Just as printing to an inkjet printer requires a digital document (PDF or DOC file), 3D printing requires 3D model files (the most common STL format). First, you need to create or upload a digital file.
- After saving the digital design, your computer will process the file and prepare it for printing. You can change the settings in the menus as easily as you would change them on a regular inkjet printer.
- You buy and use ink cartridges; for a 3D print, filament, filamentous plastic is made from various materials. The filament serves as ink for 3D printers.
- A conventional inkjet printer creates a document by applying ink to paper. A 3D printer creates a physical object by applying many layers of material to the substrate. During the printing process, the computer sends commands to the printer, forcing it to apply layers of material in such a way that a given model is obtained.
What materials are available for 3D printing?
Since all of the above examples use plastic, you might be wondering if plastic is the only thing that 3D printers can use.
Yes and no. Using a desktop printer, you can 3D print using:
- plastics of different chemical compositions and plastic-based composites;
- including metals, ceramics, and wood.
Professional and industrial 3D printers, which are more complex and expensive, can also print with:
- photopolymer resinssteel and alloys;
- wax, and other materials.
If you don't have enough money and a separate printer room, you won't be able to use these advanced materials for your DIY projects.
What can I create with a 3D printer?
It’s hard to imagine what you could do if you had a device to do various things. So, to help your imagination, here are some examples of how people use their 3D printers.
3D printing brought a lot of new things into the modeling business and seriously expanded its quantitative and qualitative capabilities; it accelerated the production of models and increased their accuracy and the range of available scales.
While it is impossible to replace all model workshop processes with 3D printing, this is not yet economically justified. 3D print takes over the routine part of the work, leaving specialists more creative, thus increasing the efficiency of their work, and therefore the productivity of the workshop as a whole. Still, it is no longer possible to imagine a self-respecting model studio without them.
A lot of things can be done on a 3D printer:
- Interior items
- Bathroom accessories
- Car Holders
Let’s consider in more detail some of them:
- Layouts. Previously, parts of models were cut out of foam, glued from sheet plastic, turned, and milled on machines from various materials, including stone. All of these technologies are still in use today, but 3D printing has greatly expanded the capabilities of layout creators.
- Costumes. Stigma Show creates their costumes using 3D printing. Stigma Show is bright geometric patterns, psychedelic images, and powerful energy. For ten years now, they have performed worldwide and given people light, literally and figuratively. The main directions are light, fire, and mirror shows.
A 3D printer is used to print masks and other elements of costumes that participants use in their performances.
Each suite is a complex construction of many components, including 3D printed parts and fabric and electronic or reflective parts.
Previously, to create a 3D object, you had to take many 2D elements and put them together. The objects are large; sometimes, the cost of plastic is about the same as ordering a similar part from the outside. Still, taking into account the time for delivery and processing, your printer will seriously benefit.
How to start work with 3D print?
Anyone can learn 3D printing. But you better get familiar with the different stages of the 3D printing process. By understanding this process, you will better know where to start and decide which printer you want to buy.
- Step 1 of the 3D Printing Process Design. For 3D printing, you need a digital file, which is a three-dimensional model of the item. Therefore, design is the first critical step in the 3D printing process.
In 3D modeling, there is no need to draw something by hand; the software has tools and shape templates that can be used to create many 3D models.
- Step 2 of the 3D printing process Slicing. Once you have a design file, the next step is to open it in a slicer with specialized software for dividing an object into layers, turning 3D graphics into a set of commands for a 3D printer.
The slicer calculates the shortest path for the printhead to travel during printing to create the first layer, then move up and create the second layer, and so on. Thus, the slicer makes a gcode file from the 3D model, with specific commands for the 3D printer to print each layer.
- Step 3 of the 3D printing process Printing. If your 3D printer is connected to your computer, click Print and ensure the process runs. If the printer is offline, transfer the gcode file from the computer to the printer on a USB flash drive or SD card, select it and start printing.
3D printers are not very fast yet; they can take several hours to print an object the size of a coffee cup.
How to simplify your life with 3D printer?
If you feel that you are not ready to take the time to develop the necessary skills but still want to do 3D printing, you can simply download an existing 3D model from the Internet.
Many do this. The Internet is filled with free open source projects for almost anything you can print.
Also, you can use studio services instead of printing the models yourself. You can make printed products even without a 3D printer. It is enough to contact one of 3D printing studios. It will help you to make the necessary model, select the optimal material and print it.
There are several reasons why you might need an online 3D printing service rather than printing with your 3D printer.
- You might want to use materials not supported by desktop printers. Online 3D printing services use industrial 3D printers that can process a wide variety of materials, including plastics, metals and alloys, resins, ceramics, wax, sandstone, paper, edible materials, and more. You will usually be limited to plastic or plastic with wood or metal dust on your desktop printer.
- If you are not a designer and do not want to do 3D printing but you want to get a prototype quickly and easily; 3D printing to order is definitely your option.
- Or, if you want to try out 3D printed products before buying a printer, decide based on the experience.
What is the alternative to a desktop CNC 3D printer machine?
When it comes to home production, you need something cheap and small. At the moment, 3D printing is the absolute leader in this segment, home printers are small in size, and consumables are inexpensive.
A small but slightly more expensive alternative to a desktop CNC machine. A CNC milling machine, or CNC for Computer Numerical Control, can be almost as modest in size as a desktop 3D printer.
- CNC machining, like 3D printing, is done using digital models. The computer processes the file and forces the cutting tool in the machine to remove material from the workpiece, layer by layer, like 3D printing, on the contrary, because the material is added there.
- CNC machines are generally more expensive and have advantages over 3D printing; they can work with a wider range of materials, including metals (for example, aluminum, steel alloys, brass, copper), softwood and hardwood, thermoplastics, acrylic, modeling foams, and modeling wax (when creating casting models).
- The accuracy of milling on a CNC machine is usually higher than the precision of printing on an FDM printer, as is the work speed.
On the other hand, they are very noisy and dirty. CNC machines operate using a high-speed rotating cutting tool, which produces a very loud sound when working through the material, apart from the noise of the drive motors and spindles themselves, and covers everything around with sawdust.
- What does 3D printing mean?
3D printing is when the printer creates a program specified by it by applying the material in layers.
- How is 3D printing carried out?
3D printing is done using various types of plastics. It comes in the form of filaments wound on large spools. The filament is loaded into the printer, which pulls in and melts it to make the plastic liquid and shape. The most common use in printers is polylactide (PLA).
- What is the principle of printing a physical object underpinned by 3D printing?
3D printing can be done in different ways and using different materials, but any of them is based on the principle of creating a solid object layer by layer.
- How long does it take for 3D printing?
Unless you are insanely limited in time, choose a lower speed - the print quality will be higher. For large models, the print speed differs more significantly: 6.5 hours versus 4.75 hours.