Technology is evolving day by day and it is continually throwing its evolutions upon us. And we too are becoming too dependent on it that we can't imagine surviving without its help. Among its various gifts, technology gave us the facility to print our documents and images on simple paper or photographic paper. This really helped us and yet it is widely used in different industries as well as for home usage. We can print documents, photos, news paper, advertising materials and many more. We haven't yet got rid of it and the technology has gifted us with another remarkable and outstanding equipment, the Additive manufacturing or 3D printing technology.
A 3D printer is a machine that can create a three-dimensional solid object, almost of any shape. With the help of Computer Aided Design (CAD) or other modeling software, we can give a shape to our 3D object. The additive manufacturing then adopts the shape by slicing virtual blueprints into digital cross-sections for the machine, so that it can follow the printing guidelines. Additive manufacturing is the process that can create objects by following a sequential layering process. For 3D printing purposes, the materials required are installed on the build bed or platform until we have achieved our required object i.e. the 3D object. The object produce is almost identical to that of the blueprint we created and this technique is known as the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get).
The standard interface used in this process is called the STL file format. This file describes an unstructured triangular aspect, by using the Cartesian coordinate system. Polygon file format or PLY (a computer file format) is designed to store 3D data from the scanner. Virtual Reality Modeling Language or VRML is used as an input in the 3D printing and are able to print in fill color.
In this stage the machine creates different layers of liquids, powders and papers, and builds a model, following the instructions the STL file. These layers are then put together and create a final object. The printer resolution defines the thickness of the object.
The process of 3D printing can take several hours or days to complete but by the help of additive system, this time period can be minimized, but it all depends on the size of the object and the machine used for printing. The time period is also increased on the number of objects to be created.
When creating small number of objects, additive systems can be used as it is much faster, flexible and cheaper, whereas for large order of polymer objects, traditional methods like the injection molding can be advisable for printing.
For many applications a printer-produced resolution is adequate, however, using the standard resolution for a high quality object and removing the material by a high-resolution subtractive method, can be of high quality.
The additive techniques can use multiple materials or colors in the construction process.
The process of 3D printing is in existence since 1970s but those printers were expensive, could produce limited functions and were large in size. But today there are many additive techniques available. They use different processes. But all have some pros and cons and the companies in this sector offer its customers to choose from powder or polymer methods to produce the final object. The main thing before taking the advantage of 3D printing service is to keep in mind the cost of printer, the printed prototype and the materials, the speed of the process and the choice of colors and materials for this service.
The 3D printing technology is now not just limited for commercial purposes but many individuals are now using this technology as a hobby and even as a small business purpose. The cost of these machines also has fallen dramatically. There are companies that offer its customers the online facility of printing. All the customer has to do is to send a design for the object, via their online service. The effects of this technology can be vast and very useful. Individuals don't have to go to market to buy the required things rather they can create these things by themselves or using the online facility. A continuous research is taking place to enhance its usage and expand the process.