Technology brings forth innovation that modernizes how people live their lives. A ground-breaking and arguably disruptive innovation in manufacturing and production is 3D printing. This manufacturing process emerged and transformed how we create things out of renderings and designs.
But what is 3D printing? How does a 3D printing service create prototypes? This article will discuss things you need to know about this process.
An Additive Printing Process
The technology of 3D printing is a cutting-edge manufacturing technique that aims to produce solid materials. The concept of additive printing reflects the process of arranging successive layers of material until a complete object is realized.
But before the 3D printer gets busy, these three-dimensional objects are drawn and rendered beforehand from computer-aided design (CAD) software by a designer. After creating the final render of a prototype, the 3D design service professional sends the information to a 3D printer which performs the printing process.
Early Concept Of 3D Printing
Even though 3D printing is widely popular today, you may be surprised to know that it isn’t something that suddenly came out of nowhere. In reality, it isn’t a new concept for humanity. Stereolithography, otherwise known as 3D printing, appeared in its earliest forms around the 1980s.
Early pioneers developed this technology as an alternative method to create product prototypes affordably. However, the limitation of technology during the time means that this innovation became limited within specific industries.
Prototyping Using 3D Printing
Nowadays, 3D prototypes are useful in ensuring that conceptualized products are functional and viable. These prototypes undergo rigorous testing multiple times. During the testing process, flaws and errors in design could surface. That’s why multiple testing and product creation are needed.
This endeavor is where the benefit of 3D printing can be seen. The 3D process is cheaper than traditional production because it reduces the time and material necessary to produce the desired prototype.
Building Prototypes: Innovations Of 3D Printing Services
The techniques applied in 3D production revolutionized the way how prototypes are being made across multiple industries. Here are some of its prototyping modernizations:
- Innovation In Product Designing
An essential contribution of 3D printing is product efficiency. When you try to create a product using traditional procedures, you have to source materials and hire a workforce to assemble these intricate parts to produce the desired outcome. On the other hand, such details can be skipped when employing the help 3D printing services because they can design and build a product in one solid piece.
- Improving Design Accuracy
Before coming up with a final product, viability and functionality testing have to be done. As a result, the design concept of a product changes from one design to another. In some cases, the product can be completely different from what was conceptualized in the early planning stages.
This printing method matters here. The entire creation system is digitally streamlined, which means cohesion leads to improved design accuracy. Design engineers can effectively create various models of the same product and carry it until the printing process.
- Reducing Material And Labor Costs
Companies engaged in manufacturing are always looking for ways to maximize their efficiency in product creation. These manufacturers utilize a tremendous amount of labor, materials, and time.
To cut costs without sacrificing product quality, these people turn to 3D printing. This printing process is cost-effective because it uses less energy than a full-fledged assembly line and reduces the time to create a single product. Additionally, most 3D printing service providers resourcefully use the available materials with little to no waste. As a result, these lead to increased savings and revenue for the company.
The 3D Printing Boom
As time went on, advancements in technology paved the way for newer, more efficient techniques of 3D printing. Additionally, 3D printers and 3D printing services have become widely available in the market at affordable prices. As a result, a growing number of industries caught on. Eventually, they slowly began to apply its usability in a wide range of applications.
Here are some industries that employ the aid of 3D printing services or apply 3D printing in their day-to-day applications:
This 3D printing technique allows architects to design and instantaneously create prototypes of their intricate architectural structures. This innovation allows for efficiency in time and cost.
Another application of 3D printing can be found in the arts and crafts industry. Suppose you’re an artist that’s enthusiastic about sculptures and physical art. Using this printing technique, you can finally create solid 3D objects and sculptures from your artworks, sketches, and photographs.
Interestingly, car manufacturers are partnering with 3D printing service providers in building automotive parts of their vehicles. Additionally, this printing process also helps designers and engineers produce vehicular prototypes, car tools, and end parts that may otherwise be expensive and scarcely inaccessible.
The impact of this printing method in the aviation and aerospace industry is outstanding. Aircraft manufacturers are now using 3D printing to reproduce parts of their aircraft to meet its growing demand. These actions save them a tremendous amount of money.
As you may know, 3D printing helps reduce the time to create plane parts. These manufacturing efforts lead to a sustainable supply chain. Moreover, these 3D-printed parts are considerably lighter. This change in overall weight impacts the plane’s fuel consumption, ultimately reducing the overall cost of flying a plane.
Although in its infancy, the usage of 3D printing to create various educational objects for students has been viewed as one of its most practical uses. For example, in biology, students can print out different categories of cells, tissues, and organs. In chemistry, students can put together 3D-printed molecular structures. And the list goes on.
Unsurprisingly, 3D printing is making a loud buzz in the furniture manufacturing industry. Its application can be widely used from design concepts to its physical production. Due to the availability of 3D printers that can print out large-scale objects and advanced CAD software, it’s undoubtedly possible for these manufacturers to create intricate but functional designs.
These 3D-printed pieces of furniture fit the modern, sometimes minimalistic, design preference of some individuals. They are also highly customized for comfort and functionality.
Besides modern, stylized designs, its practical use can also be found in building replacement parts and fixtures that would otherwise be difficult to provide.
Like other industries, the introduction of 3D printing to the pharmaceutical industry has opened a new research and device manufacturing opportunity. Clear visualization of its benefits can be found in the production of medically-tailored medicines.
In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved in 2015 the first 3D-printed drug to treat seizures. These medicines are produced having specific dosages and release characteristics. With this technology’s help, the concept of ‘personalized medicines’ is slowly turning into reality.
The application of 3D printing in the medical industry has been a rather interesting one. With this technology’s aid, medical professionals can now produce 3D-printed tissues using a computer-guided pipette. This pipette will arrange living cells with one another to create tissue prototypes in the laboratory.
The created tissues and organs can be used for medical research because they mimic the physical structure and function of similar tissues and organs found in the human body. Interestingly, medical individuals are debating about the possibility of using these 3D-printed models as cheaper alternatives for organ transplants.
Another widely-practiced application of 3D printing in this industry is printing surgical instruments and customized prosthetics. In these practices, using this technology can become a cost-effective endeavor due to the usage of cheaper materials and fast production.
Things To Carefully Consider
As you can see from the industries above, the application of 3D printing is limitless. As technological breakthroughs are achieved every year, so will its application continue to expand. However, to physically print out your prototype, you have to consider several critical factors listed below.
- Printer Type And Its Cost
To begin printing, you have to select your printing machine carefully. There are plenty of 3D printers in the market today. All of them vary according to their quality and size. It’s wise to consider what type of printer fits your needs. Identify its purchasing cost, what size of material it can build and accommodate, the extension of its warranty, and its customer support quality, amongst other things to consider.
- 3D File Formats
For your printer to recognize the prototype you’ve designed, you need to ensure that you’re using the correct language. These printers can often support various file problems; however, it’s still necessary to confirm that the printer you’ll use does so.
These are some of the widely used file formats:
- Additive Manufacturing Format (AMF)
- 3D Manufacturing Format (3MF)
- Stereolithographic (STL)
- Object Files (OBJ)
As you can see, numerous file formats are available. Each of them has its own sets of characteristics. If you don’t know what file format to use for your 3D model, design firms offer their expertise to assist you.
- Production Materials
Choosing the correct file format is the first step of prototype development. The next thing to carefully consider is the materials that will be utilized in the printing production.
Modern 3D printers can support and use different printing materials. Among these materials are the following:
- Stainless steel
- Gold, silver, and other precious metals
Because these printers can utilize a wide range of materials, you can now use 3D printing in myriad applications and prototype use.
The use of 3D printing is expansive and undoubtedly an exciting avenue to explore. Its applications and benefits are growing every minute as more businesses switch to this type of production process. In this day, wherein production efficiency is equivalent to the business’s success, 3D printing is undoubtedly a method worth considering.