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3 Basics About 3D Printing

Posted by Ellen McKewen

3D printer in action

Methods and techniques of printing have continued to evolve with the constant advancement of technology. A simple way to define printing is as basic as “a method that creates a copy of text or images.” 

From historically producing images by hand to technologically advanced machines that mass produce text and images, printing processes have continued to evolve and the very materials they are capable of replicating have expanded.

Within the past couple of decades, an American engineer introduced a way to print on an entire new level, known as 3D printing. This relatively new form of printing has continued to transform and evolve over the years, paving innovative ways for organizations to visualize business from an accurate and tangible perspective.

3D printing is commonly described among manufacturers as additive manufacturing. Unlike a traditional printing of text and images, in which a computer reads a file and spits out a flat, two-dimensional replica on paper or fabric, 3D printing creates a solid object from a digital file, using layer after layer of material, until it forms a completed 3D image.

Back to Basics

There are some basics about 3D printing that are useful to know, such as: 3D printers are not one-size-fits-all types of printers, 3D printing isn’t cut and dry, and there are more options you might not even think of for your 3D printing needs.

1. Not every 3D printer is made equal

There are a variety of 3D printers that have unique properties suited for different projects. 3D printing experts, Purple Platypus in Irvine,California, have noted that two of the most advanced and effective additive manufacturing technologies available are FDM (Fused Deposit Modeling) and Polyjet.

Purple Platypus also acknowledges the different uses between the two types of 3D printing, stating:

“FDM technology builds parts layer-by-layer by heating thermoplastic material to a semi-liquid state, and extruding it according to computer-controlled paths. This method uses two materials and is easy to clean, simple-to-use and office friendly.

Polyjet methods are similar to inkjet document printing, but instead of jetting drops of ink onto paper, these printers jet layers of liquid photopolymer onto a build tray and then cure from the built in UV light. The advantages associated with Polyjet 3D Printing technology consist of:

  • Rapid prototyping
  • Superior quality and speed
  • High precision
  • A wide variety of materials

With more than 100 materials and digital material combinations to choose from, your prototypes can match the look, feel and function of the most complex end products.”

2. Large or small project scales

Not only are there different types of 3D printing processes, but there are also a variety of printer sizes to accommodate your printing needs. So whether you’re taking on a project at home or trying to implement a 3D printing project in a large factory, you should be able to select the right size for the type of project you are trying to implement.

3. It’s as easy as 1-2-3

Since these printers produce three dimensional objects built with 3D modeling software, they are relatively easy-to-use and minimize waste.

For example, 3D printers reduce production waste. In contrast to creating molds and casts, additive manufacturing reduces the time wasted on producing unnecessary materials for specific parts and only uses exact measurements of the materials needed.

3D printers generally only require printing material, a computer file and the push of a print button. Just remember that each printer is different and requires a variation of each 3D printing process.

Which 3D Printer Fits your Needs?

Printing processes have evolved with the advancements of technology, and have gone from creating flat, two dimensional copies of images to the full-scale production of three dimensional objects.

Similar to traditional printers, 3D printers offer their users printing variety, letting users find solutions specific to their project needs. Whether you’re taking on a small- or large-scale project, these printers will ultimately be able to create any three dimensional object your project requires. How do you know which printer best fits your current projects needs?

Choosing the right additive manufacturing strategy, or 3D printer, to use is dependent on the individual organization. Each manufacturing organization is unique and reaps different benefits from different processes. Once you familiarize yourself with the various 3D printing technologies, you can create and use an additive manufacturing strategy and 3D printer that best suites your organization's needs. 

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