3D printers are the trend today. With this machine, you can print almost anything you have in mind. If you want a dress, you can 3D print it, if you want a pair of shoes, you can 3D print it. You can almost do anything with a 3D printer, including a working gun, a home, a car, and even food.
If you are interested in 3D printing or 3D printers, here are some 3D printer facts that you should know. This will help you understand the technology more and develop sound expectations from it.
1. 3D printing comes in many technologies
When you get a 3D printer, you have to be aware of the different 3D printing technologies because 3D printers have different approaches in delivering a 3D printed object. 3D printing technologies include Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA or SL) and Selective laser sintering (SLS) to name a few.
FDM 3D printers melt plastic filaments and deposit the plastic in layers until it fills up the model. There are two types of plastics that are popularly used in FDM technology, namely ABS and PLA. The former is made from oil-based resources and is sturdy. Meanwhile, the latter is made from plant-based resources and is biodegradable. Most 3D printers that you can find for home use are FDM 3D printers because they are more affordable.
SLA 3D printers use resin for its materials. Unlike FDM it builds the prototype by using a laser to cure the resin one layer at a time. Basic stereolithography includes supports that must be manually removed from the part after 3D printing. SLA 3D printers are more costly than FDM printers but they deliver better results.
SLS 3D printers also use a different approach than FDM and SLA. It uses a laser to sinter powdered metal. By binding the powder together it creates a solid structure. After sintering each layer together, the structure drops and the next layer will be built on top of it.
2. 3D printing is not as quick as you think
Although 3D printing is popular for cutting cost and time, it doesn’t mean that you can 3D print anything you have in mind in seconds. The time in finishing a product depends on several factors.
For instance, when using FDM technology, 3D printing speed is affected by the following factors: print nozzle’s temperature, materials to heat, filament thickness, layer thickness, and the number of supports required.
For SLA and Polyjet or Multijet technologies, the speed factors include laser power and size of the drop and materials. Meanwhile, for powder sintering technologies, the factors include laser power, layer thickness, and material.
Aside from these factors, the most significant is the part’s orientation and the amount of material to print. You can orient your model in a particular way to minimize the part’s height and reduce the printing time. Also, you have to take note that a large 3D model takes longer to print than a lightweight wire structure.
3. 3D printers will be cheaper over time
When 3D printing first hit the market, buying one for fun is not practical because it is too expensive. However, with 3D printing becoming a trend, more and more manufacturers produce 3D printers. As a result, the supply increases while the demand remains low, which lowers the price of the machine in the process.
For instance, if you examine the 3D printing market today you will find tons of 3D printers brands that offer different features. Some are packed with powerful functionalities and are offered at a much higher price. Others offer the basic functions and are sold at a much cheaper price. However, in the coming years, you can expect more powerful 3D printers at a very affordable price.
4. There are tons of materials to use for 3D printing
3D printing initially uses plastic but as more and more research about 3D printing progress, more materials are discovered. 3D printing now allows you to 3D print using metals, ceramic, gold, silver, titanium, gypsum and biological substances.
With biological substances producing prosthetics, organs and tissues through 3D printing are possible. In fact, in different instances, medical professionals 3D print an ear and a jaw. 3D printing artificial heart, kidney and liver are in the works. If 3D printing organs will be a success in the near future then the agonizing wait for a heart, kidney or liver transplant will be significantly reduced.
As for the other 3D printing materials, you are free to create dresses, shoes, drones, bicycles, vehicles or even house. With 3D printing, your imagination is your only limitation.
5. 3D printing allows customization
One of the best things that you can enjoy with 3D printing is that it allows customization. There is no doubt that many want to have their properties personalized, so if you have a business and you can offer this to your customers, you have an edge over the other entrepreneurs in the market.
Several businesses already incorporate this into their marketing strategy. For example, Shapeways encourage their customers to enjoy the best shopping experience by allowing them to customize the products they order. In this way, you are sure that the customers will get exactly what they want because they designed it themselves.
6. 3D printing also faces an ethical dilemma
3D printers have the potential to make the world better or bitter, depending on how we use it because it can build almost anything we have in mind. 3D printers have already produced a 3D printed prosthetics including a human ear and jaw. Scientists are now working to 3D print embryonic stem cells, hearts, kidneys, liver and other organs. However, 3D bioprinting raises ethical issues including justice in access to health care, testing for safe and efficiency, and whether professionals have to enhance one’s capacity beyond what is normal for humans.
Another ethical dilemma concerning 3D printers is 3D printing a weapon. One has already created a working 3D printed gun, which becomes a challenge to the federal laws. How would the government practice gun control if anyone can just 3D print a gun in their homes? Is it safe? This is something that one has to ponder on when weighing the potentials of a 3D printer.
7. 3D printers can completely revolutionize manufacturing
There are tons of 3D printers that uses open source hardware and software. In this way, the users are free to explore and experiment with the device to get the best out of it.
However, practicing an open source set up might lead to companies iterating the design and experimenting until they are capable of printing anything they need. For example, if companies can now print every material they need instead of ordering it from their suppliers, then big supply chains will not survive and will be extinct in the future. Check out drawing pens.
3D printing is a complex topic that involves huge potentials and possible threats. It includes different technologies and offers several benefits. Although 3D printers are like wizards they don’t do magic. In addition, there are moral and ethical issues that you need to consider before exploiting the machine. So, if you are considering on buying a 3D printer, be sure that you are well-informed and you are aware of these facts.