Normal printers print content onto a sheet of paper, which is a 2-Dimensional object. As the name suggets, 3D printing involves printing a three dimensional object, i.e. an object that has height, width and depth. The process of printing a 3D object is same as that for printing a 2D object:
- The user gives print command to the software being used by him.
- The software sends print data to the printer.
- The printer prints the document.
Whereas a 2D printer prints across the length and breadth of the page, a 3D printer adds material to the object being printed layer-upon-layer and thus creates a 3D object. Since the material is being added layer-upon-layer, it is also called “additive manufacturing”. The user just needs to provide a three-dimensional model of the said object to the printing software and the real-size object is printed by the 3D printer. “Fused Deposition Modeling” (FDM) is the most common technique used for 3D printing where a thermoplastic material’s filament is used to add layer upon layer through an orifice or nozzle.
Its benefits are:
- Almost anything 3-dimensional can be printed.
- It can be used to create low cost prototypes.
- It can be done with various kinds of materials as per needs.
- It allows rapid prototyping.
Its drawbacks are:
- The material used for 3D printing is usually of low strength.
- The finishing of the printed 3D product may not be of desired quality.
- A specific 3D printer may not be able to create complex 3D designs.
- The filament of FDM printer may release harmful particles and compounds when 3D printing a model.
- It may lead to Intellectual Property disputes as anyone can 3D print any 3D model.
Its uses include:
- It can be used to make spare parts in automotive and manufacturing sector.
- It can be used in medical sciences to make various implants and prosthetics.
- It can be used by aerospace industry to make prototypes and test their technologies.
- Sculptures can be printed for usage in art industry.
For Wikipedia entry on 3D Printing, click here.
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