By Chris Waldo
3D printing is a pretty interesting form of manufacturing technology in my opinion. It gives designers, artists, engineers, computer graphic artists, or whatever - a chance to design and create products. These "products" can do pretty much whatever you need them to in a sense. 3D printing is a form of manufacturing that involves the use of over 100 materials, thus giving designers a chance to produce a product out of almost any material. Think about that: with 3D printing, a designer can create a product out of almost any material necessary. Let me go into further details.
Imagine you're working for NASA or Red-bull and you are trying to work on a highly classified and custom engine to a certain jet. Well, you can't simply go to Home-Depot to pick up the part you are looking for in many cases, you have to build it yourself! These facilities often use CNC machining methods to produce parts, but 3D printing can take an edge in some situations. 3D printing allows for the creation of practically anything out of a very wide variety of materials. This technology, also referred to as additive manufacturing, can do some very interesting stuff that other forms of manufacturing simply cannot. Let me elaborate.
3D printing works with a layer by layer process which uses a CAM system, or a computer aided manufacturing system. Only one layer of material is made at a time, allowing for the creation of some seriously intricate things. What does this mean? Imagine a very intricate city, in the form of a 3D model. There are lots of sky scrapers, buildings, water parks, landmarks, statues, etc. Remember, this city is captured in a 3D model, which we want to manufacture. Imagine placing this intricate city inside of a ball. Keep in mind, the ball must be able to fit in the palm of your hand, so the resolution and detail tolerance must be high. If you try to take the 3D model of a city within a ball to a machine shop, you will be let down - it simply cannot be done! However, with 3D printing, this is very possible. Let's go back to the layer by layer process I mentioned earlier.
Through 3D printing, a machine will lay down very small layers of material down in accordance to the design. Sometimes the detail level is a fraction of a millimeter. Think about this city being constructed from 3D printing. Small buildings, stop signs, cars, and various landmarks are being made.25 millimeters at a time, all while laying down material for the ball which encompasses the city. The end product will result in a ball with a miniature city inside of it. This is very possible through 3D printing, other forms of manufacturing simply cannot do this.
This manufacturing technology is very good for creating very intricate models like the one I mentioned earlier, among other things. There are so many possibilities with this technology that I can't even count them! 3D printing is, and will continue to change the world.