Using 3D Printing for Startup Companies and New Ideas

admin : May 12, 2014 21:03 : Uncategorized
 

As a startup, you probably need to get a prototype built to test for performance before you go to a manufacturer for mass production. The prototype is also a great way for startups to raise funds from venture capitalists.

But even before you approach a 3D printing company for a prototype, figure out what your overall plan for your product is. How is it different from what already exists in the market? Who will buy the product? If the product is viable, how do you sell it?

If you’re able to clearly answer these questions, you may want to approach a 3D printing company to develop a prototype.

Why do investors love and expect prototypes?

Startup entrepreneurs must focus on building prototypes to show what works and what does not, generate feedback, and also to show investors what the product is all about and encourage them to fund the company.

A prototype creates an emotional connect

A verbal pitch, no matter how well-executed, goes only so far in getting the attention of your investors. If people need to use their imagination to understand what your product is capable of doing, they’re not likely to get that excited. But when they hold a physical product in their hands, and use it as it is supposed to be used, it is easy for them to get all fired up about the possibilities.

It is easy to create a prototype

With the easy availability of 3D printing, the level of finesse that is required of a prototype has gone up in the recent years. A crude mockup may not cut it anymore, or may appear lackluster in front of more finished prototypes of other startups that are also vying for the investor’s attention. Venture capitalists will expect you to know about the relatively inexpensive ways of developing prototypes using 3D printing.

Feedback and improvement

Startups often cycle through the product development process while trying to raise money at the same time. A better approach would be to pause at different stages of production, get feedback, and then produce a more refined version. A physical prototype makes it very easy to understand, respond to, and provide feedback. A prototype will expose your weaknesses and help you improve the product, and also show the investor what further resources are needed to hone the product.

Working basis for vendor negotiation

The real challenge of a startup comes after the product and the market have been validated. You will need to find suitable vendors who can produce, deliver, and distribute your product at a less time and cost than your competitors. By using the prototype which is a three dimensional version of your vision, you will be able to negotiate better and also get more accurate estimates from the vendors.

Custom 3D printing for startups

Stereolithography can quickly build you a fairly inexpensive polymer version of your product. All you need is a digitized, 3D image of your product which you can generate using any CAD software. The design data is then fed to the 3D printer with slices the data into thousands of layers. Each cross-section or layer is then 3D printed on a build platform, one on top of the other. This additive manufacturing process lays down successive layers of material, slowly building the final object.

Stereolithography uses photopolymers as the build material. Selective laser sintering is a technique that uses thermoplastics, ceramic powders, and metal powders to build the prototype. FDM or Fused Deposition Modeling technique is used to 3D print objects made of thermoplastics, modeling clay, metal clay, and even edible material.

Prototyping is a great way to explore the possibilities of a product. This is where you bring your ideas to life, for the members of the startup, and other interested parties as well. Using 3D printing technology, it is now easier and more affordable than ever to build a prototype. Startups that are serious about getting the best version of their product to market, and also attracting the best investors simply cannot afford to skip the prototyping stage.

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Rapid Prototyping Services in Minnesota

admin : May 1, 2014 09:01 : Uncategorized
 

Looking for rapid prototyping services in Minnesota to transform an idea in your mind to a real, working product? Here are some of the options that are available for you to choose from.

Rapid prototyping is the technique of turning a 3D CAD design into a tangible physical object. Designers, engineers, and hobbyists use different rapid prototyping technologies to transform their innovative and creative ideas into actual objects. You can either buy a 3D printer to print out your designs, or approach rapid prototyping companies who can print it for you. 3D printers can be expensive if you do it on your own, so rapid prototyping companies offer a cost-effective solution.

Minnesota residents can choose from different types of rapid prototyping technologies to bring their vision to life. Minnesota-based rapid prototyping company Intech uses the following three technologies to build your prototypes quickly and cost effectively.

SLA (Stereolithography)

Stereolithography was a technique that was developed in 1986 and is considered to be the first rapid prototyping technique. The SLA machine reads 3D CAD data of your design and uses an ultraviolet laser beam to harden successive layers of photosensitive resin. Each physical layer corresponds to a virtual cross-section of the 3-D design data. SLA is capable of producing very high level of detail, good surface finish, and thin layers. You will need to cure the product after it is made to harden it further.

Orthopaedic surgeons can use SLA to print models to use in pre-surgical planning from the CT scan data. The models will come in handy to plan for scoliosis surgery, and even extensive maxillofacial surgery.

Polyjet

The Polyjet technology uses a high precision 3-D printing process, and can create layers as thin as 16 microns. This level of detail makes it a brilliant option to create models as well as master patterns for urethane castings. High resolution ink-jet technology and ultraviolet curable materials are used by the Polyjet printer to produce extensively detailed prototypes quickly and cost effectively. Polyjet is one of the fastest prototyping processes available today. Use it to develop high precision physical parts, master patterns, and small objects. It is also great for tooling in low-temperature applications. Once the object is printed by the Polyjet machine, the finished product is taken out to be cleaned and finished. Rapid prototyping service providers such as Intech offers hand sanding and painting options to further improve the printed object.

FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling)

Fused Deposition Modeling is a technique that melts and selectively deposits thin filaments of thermoplastic polymers in a crosshatched fashion to form each layer of the final object. Production grade thermoplastic materials are used to produce prototypes and final parts. This technology produces products that have an excellent strength to weight ratio. Concept models, low-volume end-use parts, manufacturing aids, and functional prototypes can be built using FDM.

All the above processes begin by slicing the 3-D CAD data of the product into layers. The data is then transferred to 3D printers which then construct the object layer by layer on a build platform.

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The Possible 3D Printing Designs

admin : April 24, 2014 20:56 : Uncategorized
 

When 3D designer Jim Rodda wanted to give his niece a Barbie doll for her fourth birthday, he decided to outfit Barbie with a 3D printed sword and shield rather than a boring pink party dress. Doll-sized swords, shields, and battle-ready armors are not the only things that can be 3D printed today. The technology is so advanced that it is now used to print anything from an automotive spare part to even surgical implants.

3D printing is made possible with what is called the additive layering technology. Layer upon layer of materials are fused together on a build platform to create the final object. Each layer is typically about 0.1 mm thick.

Materials used in 3D printing

Many different materials can be used to create objects using the 3D printer. ABS plastic, photopolymers, nylon and glass filled polyamide, epoxy resins, wax, titanium, silver, steel, and polycarbonate are commonly used.

What can you make with the 3D printer?

If you can draw something on a piece of paper, you can make it with a 3D printer. Here are some of the most creative things that have ever been printed.

3D print an acoustic guitar

The first ever 3D printed acoustic guitar was made by Scott Summit. The guitar body was made from duraform polyamide. The metal parts were also 3D printed.

3D printing for artists and craftspeople

Prof Stephen Hoskins, the director of the Centre for Fine Print Research, University of West England, Bristol, uses 3D printing to produce extremely detailed ceramic objects. They 3D print ceramic prototypes specifically for the ceramic industry. Ceramic prototypes have a much superior look, feel, and tactility than traditional prototypes. Ceramic 3D printing allows craftspeople to print a prototype which has exactly the same aesthetic, surface feel, and visual detail as he imagined.

3D fetus

Proud mothers and fathers often fondly carry around the ultrasound pictures of their unborn child. Now you can take it to the next level by 3D printing the fetus.

3D print a bikini

Continuum Fashion has designed the first 3D printed bikini. Named N12 (after Nylon 12, the material used to print the bikini), this waterproof bikini is available for purchase online.

3D printing in the fashion industry

The fashion industry is perhaps one of the most positively impacted by 3D printing technology. Many up-and-coming designers are using 3D printers to create their own original signature looks. 3D printing is a great opportunity for designers to print clothing with the details that are as small as one-tenth of a millimeter. Take a look at this video that showcases some very creative and innovative clothes that were 3D printed.

3D print medical models

Medical model printing is one of the most common uses of 3D printing technology. With this method, doctors have an excellent method to learn about human anatomy and also to plan and practice surgery using actual models created from a patient’s scan data. Recently, an 18 month old boy was surgically fitted with a custom splint that was created by 3D printing. The technology has also been used to reconstruct a badly injured face with a broken jaw, cheekbones, and eye sockets, and a fractured skull.

The future of 3D printing – Food?

The above are just a glimpse into the virtually unlimited possibilities of 3D printing. And the future is likely to surprise you more.

Researchers may be able to even 3D print food sooner than you think. A company called Modern Meadow is developing the technology that can produce synthetic meat with the help of 3D printers.

You can print virtually anything with a 3D printer. The only thing that limits you is your imagination.

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Rapid Prototype – Back to the Basics

admin : April 16, 2014 15:43 : Uncategorized
 

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When designers and engineers want to develop new products and parts, or improve the efficiency of existing ones, they usually start with a prototype. Building a prototype is a cost-effective way of testing your designs, identifying performance issues, and tweaking them till you get it right before sending them off to mass production.

What is rapid prototyping?

An inventor or a designer usually manually builds a crude model as a visual representation of the idea before developing it further and commercially manufacturing it. You can use any material that is available to build prototypes. But crude models using household material may not have the required level of detail, and may not be suitable to be used as a test case. Rapid prototyping enables you to build models with the required level of detail, and which can be used for testing, as a template for manufacturing, or even to market the product to clients before the production starts.

Rapid prototyping is a method that is used to quickly build a scale model using 3D design data produced by a CAD software. Stereolithography, developed in 1986 by 3D Systems of Valencia, CA, is considered to be the first rapid prototyping technique. Since then, a number of other techniques have also been used to create prototypes. The primary purpose of rapid prototyping is to get expert feedback on the design early in the production process and make suitable modifications in order to reduce the likelihood of product failure.

The first step in rapid prototyping is to create a 3D visual representation using a CAD software, resulting in an STL file which can be used by the 3D printer to print the object. The printer slices the 3D data into thousands of cross sections or layers. It then reads each layer of data and prints a corresponding physical layer on a build platform. Using addictive layering technology, each layer is printed successively on top of each other till the product is complete. Plastic or metal objects can be produced using this method.

With a suitable quality of rapid prototyping material, highly complex and convoluted shapes with intricate details (such as parts nested within parts) can be produced.

 

Who benefits from rapid prototyping?

Rapid prototyping is used in just about all industries such as automotive, aerospace, jewelry, tableware, coin making, by medical etc. It is used to fabricate scale models, patterns, functional models, medical models, and models for analysis.

Engineers use prototypes during the design stage for visualization, proof of concept, and marketing and presenting the model. The models are also used to perform flow analysis, stress distribution, fabrication of custom biomedical processes and implants, and for diagnostic and surgical operation planning.

RP

Source: http://web.iitd.ac.in/~pmpandey/MEL120_html/RP_document.pdf

Aerospace

The aerospace industry uses rapid prototyping to reduce the time to market, and assess the proper fit and design of the actual part.

Medicine

Rapid prototyping finds several uses in the field of medicine. A physical 3D model can provide an accurate visual and tangible representation of bone and organ structures which physicians and surgeons can use to make critical life-saving decisions. Implants and prostheses can also be custom made to suit a patient’s unique anatomical and physiological features.

Architecture

Architects use rapid prototyping to build inexpensive scale models of a building concept that may be difficult to visualize and prove otherwise. The prototypes are used to show proof of concept and to gain approval from clients on specific design aspects of a project.

Automotive

The automotive industry uses rapid prototyping in every stage of the process, right from the design stage till actually building the car. A prototype is the ideal tool to communicate and verify the design of a part that will go into the actual vehicle.

Prototypes can save you time and money. Whether you are an engineer who is designing a complex product for a large manufacturing firm, a designer who wants to show proof of concept to the client, an entrepreneur or inventor who wants to use the model to raise funding, or just a hobbyist who likes to create things from scratch, rapid prototyping is something that can help you.

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What is Rapid Prototyping?

admin : April 9, 2014 08:49 : Uncategorized
 

Rapid prototyping (RP) is a group of techniques that are used to produce scale models of a product using 3D printing technology and computer-aided design (CAD) data. It is used in a wide range of industries to convert innovative ideas into perfectly functioning end products.

A quick history lesson

Rapid prototyping first emerged in the scene in the late 1980s with the introduction of a technology called stereolithography, which is based on hardening of liquid plastic by exposing it to ultraviolet laser. Laminated object manufacturing, fused deposition modeling (FDM), and selective laser sintering (SLS) technologies were introduced in the later years.

 

How does it work?

Rapid prototyping is an additive manufacturing technology. The basic design is first converted into 3D design data using CAD software. This data is fed to the 3D printing machine which slices it into thousands of cross sections. Each cross-section is laid out on the build platform as successive layers of material, building it up to make the final product. Each layer corresponds to the virtual cross-section that was read from the CAD data. These layers are automatically built one on top of the other to build the final product.

Rapid prototyping systems can usually produce 3D objects within just a few hours. But time is variable depending on the type of machine used, and the size of the object.

 

What are the advantages of rapid prototyping?

Rapid prototyping has some significant advantages.

Quick way of prototyping

If done the conventional way, creating a prototype for tooling or other model parts can take days. With rapid prototyping, it will take just a few hours.

Cost savings

Conventional prototyping is laborious and expensive. Prototyping allows you to identify mistakes early on before committing to expensive tooling. Cost reduction is achieved not only by avoiding future costly modifications, but also in terms of labor costs.

Product gets to the market quicker

When the prototype is created quickly, engineers and designers can immediately analyze it for any defects and make adjustments. This iterative process can be completed quickly with rapid prototyping. The quicker the final prototype is developed, the faster the product can get to the market.

 

How to make the most of rapid prototyping

The highest potential for rapid prototyping is in the design stage where superior designs are created. If used properly, rapid prototyping can significantly accelerate the pace of product development and also produce defect-free final products. To really save time with rapid prototyping, engineers and designers must make the necessary changes in the overall product development process to accommodate the power of rapid prototyping technology. Identify the slowest aspects of product development and critically analyze it to see if there is a potential to use rapid prototyping to accelerate these activities. Try and involve all the interested parties to evaluate the design.

The faster you create prototypes, the faster you can develop your final product and get it into the market.

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The Process of Prototyping Your Project

Jeff : April 3, 2014 08:46 : Uncategorized
 

Prototyping is an integral part of the design process, whether it is a crude sketch on your notebook or a model created by a 3D printer. It can help you find and fix design issues early, do quick creative iterations, compare variations, and use it as a presentation tool for collaboration and marketing.

With the technology that is currently available, prototyping is relatively inexpensive, quick and easy. Here is the typical process that you would have to go through, for prototyping a project or product idea.

 

Understanding the product

The very first thing that you have to do after you’re struck with a brilliant idea is to understand it in depth. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • – What is the purpose of the product?
  • – How is it different from other products on the market?
  • – How will you manufacture, package, market, and sell it?
  • – Can the product be manufactured with currently existing technology?
  • – Are there any regulatory, environmental, safety, or copyright issues?
  • – How much will it cost to mass produce the product and how much would people be willing to pay?

Brainstorm on any other issues that might potentially crop up in the later stages. Once you have a satisfactory set of answers, you can think about building the actual prototype.

In the early stages of a project, a simple drawing could do as a visual aid. But as you progress further, you will need more complex prototypes. Prepare to spend some time tweaking the design and working with crude prototypes if you feel that there are still some issues that need to be sorted. Think about rapid prototyping using 3-D printing only when you’re sure that you have the final design.

 

Prototype designing

This is the stage when serious prototyping begins. Complex prototypes can be created using 3D printers and CAD data of the model. The first step here is to use a CAD software to transfer product specs into detailed design data. If your product has multiple parts, design each part individually. Remember that every time you make adjustments to one part, you’re altering the dimensions and design of the entire product. CAD can be used to build realistic-looking images with detailed views and will allow you to see how all the parts will move and operate after they have been built. Make sure that you have detailed 3D CAD plans before you move to the next step when you actually build the prototype.

 

Developing the prototype

There are many technologies that are available to create your final model. Rapid prototyping using 3D printing technology is a quick and easy solution to build your model within just a few hours.

Rapid prototyping uses different methods such as additive fabrication, free-form fabrication, layered manufacturing, 3D printing, and digital fabrication. What all these methods essentially do is build fine layers of material onto each other, creating a 3D object layer by layer.

Additive fabrication is the most common method used to print 3D objects. Stereolithography, Fused Deposition Modeling, Selective Laser Sintering, and Laminated Object Manufacturing are some technologies for additive fabrication. Depending on the procedure that you use, you may need to provide a support structure for the design as it is being built. Usually, the support structure is dissolved away after the product is complete.

After the prototype is built by the machine, it is also cured and hardened further for additional strength and stability. Small prototypes can often be built within a few hours, but large prototypes can take days. Large machines can be very expensive, but smaller machines are available in the affordable range. Prototyping companies that charge by the hour can also build products for you from the specs that you submit.

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Learn All About Stereolithography Printers

Jeff : March 26, 2014 08:37 : Uncategorized
 

Stereolithography allows you to create prototypes from CAD drawings within a matter of just a few hours. Hobby grade 3D printers using stereolithography (SLA) technology uses light instead of heat to make prototypes. They produce a more polished and detailed output than the less expensive Fused Filament Fabrication printers. SLA improves 3D printing by providing faster build, higher resolution, more complex geometry, and use of versatile building material that can even produce translucent models.

Yes, SLA technology is catching on.

 

How does a stereolithography printer work?

Stereolithography machines have four components:

  • – A vat filled with liquid ultraviolet curable photopolymer or liquid plastic.
  • – A movable platform immersed in the liquid resin.
  • – Ultraviolet laser.
  • – A computer that controls both the platform and the laser.

The basic principle is that photopolymer hardens when exposed to ultraviolet light.

The printing process is as follows:

  1. The first step is to create a 3D design data of the product in a CAD program.
  2. The CAD data is virtually sliced into very thin layers of typically 5-10 mm.
  3. The data is fed into the SLA printer which processes each layer, one after the other.
  4. According to each layer data, a laser light source hardens a cross-section of the liquid plastic on top of the build platform.
  5. The printer then drops the platform a tiny bit to allow the laser to build the next layer.
  6. The process continues and the product is built layer by layer till complete.

The process is fairly slow and can take up to 12 hours to complete. If you are attempting to build a large object, it can take even days. When the process is complete, the printer will raise the platform to reveal the final object. An ultraviolet oven is often used to cure and further harden the completed objects.

Resin manufacturers continue to develop new composite photopolymers that offer better possibilities. New resin systems are reinforced ceramics that offer better stiffness, low shrinkage, and easier processing.

 

What are the capabilities of SLA?

SLA technology allows you to create virtually any 3D object that you can dream of and convert into CAD data. It offers a wide range of practical applications in a variety of fields from mechanical engineering to biomedicine.

SLA helps businesses evaluate their preliminary designs for aesthetics, feasibility, ergonomics, and manufacturability before they start producing on a large scale. Models can also be tested to study the effects of external forces on the part.

Manufacturing companies use SLA models for production line design, tooling, and casting. Any industry that sells a physical product can make use of SLA printing to create a physical representation of the product before they actually start producing it. Marketers can use the model to sell before even starting production.

SLA capabilities extend even to the field of biomedicine. Surgeons can make accurate, custom-made models of implants to use in treatment. The models can be used to educate medical students and patients.

SLA is now within the reach of even the average hobbyist. Serious amateur printers may want to consider buying an SLA based kit to print out their dreams.

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3D Printing in Healthcare

Jeff : March 20, 2014 09:33 : Uncategorized
 

A 14 month old boy born with congenital heart defects needed emergency heart surgery to survive. His pediatrician prepared for this difficult surgery by studying a 3D model of the boy’s heart to understand its defects, anticipate problems, and figure out a surgical plan. The boy underwent successful heart surgery in the Kosair Children’s Hospital, Louisville Kentucky. The 3D model of the heart helped the surgeon go into surgery knowing what he needs to do and how to do it.

3D printing is rapidly revolutionizing healthcare. Scientists and physicians all over the world are teaming up to print implants, prosthetics, and organs using 3D printing technology. Even skin cells can now be printed to create new skin for burn victims.

 

3D printing medical devices

3D printing greatly facilitates creation of medical devices that need to be custom made. Hearing aids that perfectly fit your ear can now be custom printed in just a day, whereas without 3D printing it would take almost a week. The audiologist will scan the ear using laser to create an ear impression. The technician uses the scan data to print the shells using resin and then fit the necessary electronics and acoustic vents.

Dental crowns and implants are also made using 3D printing technology. The time to create an implant or crown has now reduced drastically from the earlier two weeks to just a few hours now. A digital scan of the patient’s mouth is all that is needed now to print implants, bridges, crowns, and dentures. The process is not only more accurate, but also less invasive than creating physical molds of the mouth.

3D printing is tremendously useful if you need custom parts that are not available elsewhere.

Joint replacement

Knee replacement surgery is a very common procedure undergone by millions of people all over the world. At the moment, doctors use a limited set of implants and cut the bone of the patient to fit the standard joint. But with 3D printing, doctors are not limited to just a small set of joints to work with. With the scan data of the knee, they can print an implant which perfectly fits the individual patient. The patient does not have to lose any more bone than required. Only a minimal amount of bone is removed during the surgery and the recovery is also much faster. 3D printed knee joints and cartilage have great strength and flexibility.

Making prostheses

This is an area which has made significant progress with the help of 3D printing. The trouble will prosthetic parts is that even over the course of several years they do not wear down to conform to what’s left of the patient’s limbs. But 3D printing allows the creation of prosthetic coverings that perfectly reflect the dimensions, symmetry, and the function of the remaining limb of the patient. Prostheses can also be custom made to suit the sense of fashion of the patient. Doctors have used 3D printing to replace even 75% of a patient’s skull.

We may soon be able to print even human tissue and organs using 3D printing technology.

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How to Make a Prototype

Jeff : March 10, 2014 09:55 : Uncategorized
 

Prototyping is a way of converting an idea in your head to a tangible product. It is a three-dimensional representation of your vision. Developing a prototype lets you tap into your creativity and transform your mental image into a physical product that others can look at, touch, feel, and understand.

How do you make a prototype?

First define the type of prototype that you need. Is it for manufacturing, to sell to prospective clients, or to raise money from investors?

Ideally, don’t spend too much money to start with. A prototype can be made from cheap, easily available materials, or with the help of complex rapid prototyping machines. Choose a method depending on what you want your prototype to look like.

While prototypes can be made from just any material available at hand, several industries use rapid prototyping machines to create sophisticated working scale models of final products before mass-production.

The process

Actually creating the prototype is the most vital step in your invention process.

The first step is to make a drawing of your product. Keep all your sketches in your notebook because it may evolve as you build it.

Create an initial crude prototype by hand. Experiment as much as you can with easily available materials such as cardboard, wood, paper, foam, or metal. The purpose of the crude prototype is to simply help you think about your invention and how it will function. It does not even have to be a working model. Refine and hone your idea till you get to a stage where you can take it to the next level and build a real prototype that others can touch, feel, and use.

The next step is to build a working model of the product. Depending on what it is, you will be using either plastic or metal to build it. Make a list of all the materials and supplies that you are likely to need to build the prototype. You may need to refer books on prototyping or even consult with a professional or a company for quotes on how much it will cost you.

There are several methods of prototyping that are available today. A relatively inexpensive and accessible option is called rapid prototyping which is a method of CAD (Computer Aided Design). Rapid prototyping allows you to create professional quality prototypes quickly. It uses a technology called additive manufacturing which allows you to make prototypes for any industry – gaming, voice, consumer goods, medical goods, or anything else. Your imagination is the only thing that limits you.

If you need a professional quality prototype, an industrial design firm can use their 3D printer to develop a prototype for you. Firms like us take ideas and concepts from your head and convert it into a working prototype which you can then show a client. If you’re an inventor or entrepreneur, confidentiality is an obvious concern. Discuss your apprehensions with the prototyping firm and sign a confidentiality agreement before commencing work.

For inventors and designers, rapid prototypes can be an inexpensive way of bringing their vision to life before they are in a position to scale up production and market the product.

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Types of 3D Printing Technologies

Jeff : March 3, 2014 09:54 : Uncategorized
 

Whether you are an engineer, artist, fashion designer, or just someone who enjoys creating things, you know how having a physical product in your hands transforms the experience of connecting and interacting with it. No matter how realistic and high-quality a 2D print is, you simply cannot run your fingers over its surface, or feel its contours and heft. For designers and engineers who rely so heavily on the actual form of their product, the lack of something to touch and hold can be frustrating.

3D printing provides an easy solution.

What is 3D printing?

Simply put, 3D printing is a prototyping technology which creates a real object from 3D design data. The data is fed to a printer which prints out the design layer by layer to create the object.

Different types of 3D printing technologies

Here is a closer look at some of the popular 3D printing technologies.

SLS (Selective Laser Sintering)

SLS 3D printers use laser to heat and melt together the base material that is used to create the object. Ceramic powder, plastic, or even glass can be used as the base material. The laser is used to selectively sinter (heat and fuse) the powdered material. The printer slices a 3D data file into 2D cross sections, to progressively print each layer till the final object takes shape.

SLS is used by General Electric to build model parts for turbines. The technology also finds extensive application in the aerospace, automotive, dental, and surgical tools industry.

FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling)

FDM is a type of plastic extruding technology. The printer excludes plastic filaments through a nozzle onto the build base. As each layer of material is added, the base is lowered to add the next layer. FDM printers need two types of printing materials at a time – the actual material for the prototype itself, and the support material which provides structure while the object is being printed. After the project is complete, the support material is dissolved away by dumping the finished product in an acid bath. Support material fills in the gaps and allows creation of intricate structures like linked chains and nested objects.

Designers, large manufacturers, educators, and engineers will find this technology affordable and useful to bring their vision to life. BMW, Lamborghini, Hyundai, Nestle, Black and Decker etc. are some companies that use FDM.

SLA (Sterolithogrpahy)

Stereolithography, developed by the California-based 3D Systems of Valencia, is considered to be the first rapid prototyping technique. It is used to build objects out of liquid resins. Stereolithography machines uses laser discs to scan a bath of photosensitive resin which solidifies in thin cross sections to build up the final product below the liquid surface. The final object seems to magically emerge from a tank full of sludge. SLA technology is preferred for many entry-level printers because it is not as complex or expensive as other technologies. By using inexpensive UV-cured resin, it can build extremely detailed models.

For designers who are not satisfied with the quality of extruded plastic low-end printing technology, SLA is a great alternative.

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