The Power of 3D Printing

 

Introduction

Printing has been around since 1450 when Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable type printing press. The printing press changed the world in a way people could have never imagined. The poor now had access to books and education was no longer a luxury of the rich. A new technology like that of the printing press is currently revolutionizing our lives in ways never believed to be possible before.

At first when the technology came out in the 1980’s there were a few different ways to go about creating 3D objects from a machine. As of today most technologies have centered on a single manufacturing technique. This technique is known as additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. 3D printing is achieved using additive processes, where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material. But since you can create objects from different materials, though the technique to create 3d objects may be the same, companies around the world have developed different ways in which use these materials.

Molten polymer deposition

Fused deposition modeling (FDM) was developed by Stratasys in the late 1980’s.

“FDM works using a plastic filament or metal wire which is unwound from a coil and supplies material to an extrusion nozzle which can turn the flow on and off. The nozzle is heated to melt the material and can be moved in both horizontal and vertical directions by a numerically controlled mechanism, directly controlled by a computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software package. The model or part is produced by extruding small beads of thermoplastic material to form layers as the material hardens immediately after extrusion from the nozzle. Stepper motors or servo motors are typically employed to move the extrusion head.”

Granular materials binding

Another technique some scientist and inventors have used is using the additive technique is by binding print media in a granular bed. Un-fused material is used to support overhands and thin walls in the part being produced so you can get rid of extra needed temporary supports. A Laser is used to meld the materials together and form the solid. (SLS) or selective laser sintering is a very popular technique used. Another popular technique is (EBM) or electron beam melting which melts titanium alloys. It melts metal powder layer by layer using an electron laser beam. The metal doesn’t need to be below melting point so the parts are fully dense and very strong.

Lastly inkjet 3D printing systems are another form of this granular materials binding technique. This is the technique used in the bio medical world that allows scientist and doctors to create body parts and organs by creating the part one layer at a time by spreading a layer sugars and proteins till the object is completely formed.

Photo Polymerization

The main technique in photo polymerization is (SLA) or stereo lithography. It was developed by Charles W. Hull in 1986.

“Hull’s patent described a concentrated beam of ultraviolet light focused onto the surface of a vat filled with liquid photopolymer. The light beam draws the object onto the surface of the liquid layer by layer, and using polymerization or cross-linking to create a solid, a complex process which requires automation. In 1986, Hull founded the first company to generalize and commercialize this procedure, 3D Systems Inc,which is currently based in Rock Hill, SC. More recently, attempts have been made to construct mathematical models of the stereo lithography process and design algorithms to determine whether a proposed object may be constructed by the process.”

It is also known as optical fabrication, photo solidification, solid free-form fabrication, and solid imaging. It’s main advantage is its speed as it is the fastest of all the techniques but its downfall is that it is also the most expensive of the techniques mentioned above.

Applications

3D printing has reshaped the medical, industrial, and artistic worlds allowing scientist to manufacture body parts and organs for patients who need replacements. Car companies such as Audi use massive 3D printing machines to rapidly prototype full scale designs of new cars to be developed. Artists around the world are creating new art never made possible before without the help of computer aided design. Chefs has even gotten their hands of these machines and used them to create beautiful food with patterns inside food. Now eating food is no longer about taste, but rather about taste and beauty not just in the form of outer presentation but now as well as inner presentation.

But it doesn’t stop there. You don’t need to be a scientist to be able to use these machines or have lots of money to be able to purchase one. Many hobbyist and enthusiasts are making their own machines are home. The greatest thing about this technology is that its open source for both the software and hardware aspect. You can get schematics online on how to make your own 3D printing machine and in fact some companies sell all the required parts or even kits to build your own.

People at home are building replacement parts for woodworking machines, ipod cases, jewelry, and so many things. There is even research into creating software so that these machines can create computer circuiting boards. It’s the dawn of a new age where computers will be building computers at home. Imagine a day when you want to buy a new pair of shoes and so you go on your computer download a schematic of a pair of shoes you like and then you customize it to your preferences and then print it out at home.

Conclusion

In 10 years we will see our world change drastically in terms of what we can do at home now and what new inventions can be made with the power and precision of 3d printing. The retail world will change because people will be able to make their clothes at home, same with apparel, and maybe even computer parts. Doctors will be able to save more lives by being about to create replacement organs and body parts. If it’s anything like how the printing press or transistor changed the world then we are in for a hell of a ride.

Bibliography

3D printing. (2012, 12 July). Retrieved July 15th, 2012, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_printing

Stereolithography. (2012, May 27th). Retrieved July 15th, 2012, from Widipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereolithography

 

About Andrew Rubiano

Computer Science major looking to pursue a master's degree in artificial intelligence after i complete my degree here at Florida State University. I love how popular mobile applications have become and definitely think they will be a huge part of our lives in the upcoming years. Im happy FSU has a class in mobile programming so i can be better prepared for the future.