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What Is 3D Printing? The Future of Manufacturing?

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Introduction

I am sure you must have heard about the futuristic tech 3D Printing. It is one of the fascinating technologies in the modern world. All those Star-Trek TV Series fans were in awe to see the sci-fi in the real world. Yes, the 3D printing idea was first featured in the 'Star Trek' series from 1966 and partially in the Shakalaka Boom Boom's magic pencil (Indian TV Series). Some people even claim that it is the future of manufacturing, medical, biological, rocket, and political sciences! Okay, not political science though. So let's find out what their claim turns out to be.

3D Printing an Engine

3D Printing an Engine

You must be familiar with the traditional 2D printers, they simply print using ink in two dimensions only. So according to this simple analogy, if you are guessing "ahaa, since it prints in the third dimension it is called a "3D printer" then you got it right! But 3D printers use plastic and other materials instead of ink. Today's 3D printers can make toys, LEGO, dresses, phone cases, furniture, gifts, jewelry, tooth set, rocket engine, houses, and even a living organ! This innovative idea was first implemented by Charles and his team in 1986.

Novabeans prints jewelry!

Novabeans prints jewelry!

3D Printed rocket engines

3D Printed rocket engines

3D Printing Used by Major Companies

Of course, there are printers that use many other materials other than plastic as ink. There were many advancements in the science and technology involved in 3D printing in the past 30 years. For example, using molten plastic (not 100% molten) to make toys, powdered aluminum, titanium for a rocket engine, liquid resins for dental requirements, and many more. The use of 3D printers is growing with time. Many people are buying desktop 3D printers and even companies like Tesla, NASA, British Museum use 3D printers. Also, Nike uses it to make shoe soles and an Indian rocket company 'Agnikul' uses 3D printing to manufacture their rocket engines.

what-is-3d-printing-the-future-of-manufacturing
Showcase and toys are also 3D printed

Showcase and toys are also 3D printed

Taking a Closer Look

Most of the 3D printing technologies follow the same principle but different techniques. Before a printer starts printing any object, the digital design of the object is sliced into thousands of layers, each layer typically of the size of paper. Then the printer prints all the layers one above the other and in the end, the entire stack of layers forms a physical object.

The layers are enlarged for illustration

The layers are enlarged for illustration

Fascinating? Want to print?

So how can you actually 3D print? Just like grabbing an image from google and hitting the print option to get the image on a paper, we do something similar to print 3D objects! You search on a website: 'Thingiverse' (fancy name, isn't it?) and choose a digital design file (or rather job file). Although Thingiverse isn't the only website of that kind, it is the most used on the web. Then with few modifications in print settings in a slicing software you can start printing the object.

Digital Design File (CAD)

Digital Design File (CAD)

Making file ready to print

Making file ready to print

Desktop 3D printers

There are a number of 3D printers available in the market, ranging from ₹ 8,000 - 20,00,000 (INR). As mentioned before, there are several different techniques opted by 3D printers out of which Fused Deposition Modelling(FDM) and Stereo Lithography Apparatus (SLA) are the most popular ones. The prevalent brands in the 3D printing brands are Prusa, Makerbot, Creality, Ultimaker, FormLabs, and many others. Also, there are online 3D printing services, so you don't have to buy one to print.

Note: FDM is also called Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF)

Commercial desktop 3D printer

Commercial desktop 3D printer

Role In COVID-19 Pandemic

3D Printing was actually invented while making furniture at a furniture company, which was further studied and developed by 3D Systems. The remarkable usage of 3D printing during the COVID-19 pandemic is to manufacture ventilator splitters, face guards, and mini isolation houses to tackle the huge demand.

Note: 3D Systems had patented SLA

3D printed face mask

3D printed face mask

Future of 3D Printing

3D Printing has the potential to replace traditional manufacturing methods. It can manufacture complex designs that once seemed impossible. Additive manufacturing has shown a significant role in the medical sector too. Prosthetic arms, orthopedic footwear are being printed without a hustle.

Combined with relevant techniques in tissue engineering, it is possible to print an entire organ. However, it couldn't print a fully functional organ yet. But sooner or later, we could see an artificial heart being printed! If 3D printing somehow manages to pull off this peak, then it can save many lives.

It sounds too good to be true, but who knows we might someday end up using 3D printers to print our favorite recipe(Oh yea, food printing is a thing), favorite dress, shoes, jewelry, or even gift your dear ones!

© 2020 RevUp

Comments

Sri Harsha Manchukonda on July 23, 2020:

Amazing. Nice information... great work. U have shown lot of patience. Gr8 job.

Saikiran on July 23, 2020:

Nice content

S on July 23, 2020:

Nice info Man!