In simple terms, 3D Printing is a method of manufacturing that eliminates various steps involved in traditional manufacturing and creates objects directly, by adding material layer by layer in a variety of ways, depending on the technology used.
Steps in 3D Printing
- A 3D model is designed
- The design is converted to STL format
- 3D design is sliced to convert it into gcode, which is the machine (3D Printer) understandable format.
- The Gcode is fed into the machine via an SD card.
- The machine converts the 3D design into a product.
What can a 3D Printer make?
Anyone who knows about 3D Printers generally says “If you can draw it, you can make it with the machine”. The machine can make consumer as well as industrial products and is being adopted in sectors like aerospace, defense, healthcare, architecture, automotive, education and research. It is also being used to make jewelry, gadgets (e.g. phone cases), home décor, art, toys (e.g. action figures, chess pieces, toy bricks) and many such interesting things.
On a lighter note, 3D Printers can also print a 3D Printer.
To know more about the application of 3D Printing: 6 Innovations in 3D Printing
Benefits of 3D Printing over traditional manufacturing
3D Printing, also known as Additive manufacturing brings a host of benefits that the traditional method of manufacturing does not offer.
- Personalization: 3D printing processes allows mass customization; it brings in the ability to personalize products according to individual needs and requirements.
- Complexity: With 3D Printing it is possible to manufacture complex shapes which are sometimes impossible to be made with traditional manufacturing. While this advantage has been taken up by designers and artists to impressive visual effect, it has also made a significant impact on industrial applications, whereby applications are being developed to materialize complex components that are proving to be both lighter and stronger than their predecessors.
- One shot production: Via traditional manufacturing, the production of tooling to build that first product is the most cost, time and labour intensive of all the processes. Whereas 3D Printing has the capability to do one shot production without requiring the tooling.
- Environmental friendly: 3D printing manufactures additively, which means that it uses only as much as raw material that is required to produce the final product. Thereby, creating less wastage. The technology allows making any design stronger and lighter in turn reducing carbon footprint as compared with the traditional ways of manufacturing.