What is 3D Printing

Now and then I get to answer questions about 3D printing and 3D printers. I will do the same here in a Q & A format.

What is 3D printing?

3D printing is the process of converting 3d digital designs or drawings into real physical object you can hold in your hands using a wide variety of materials and technology. I am going to focus on the widely available technology and materials.

3D Printing
The building above was printed using white plastic material (filaments). The feel of the plastic is the same as with Lego toys.

For creating an object you need a digital 3D-model. You can scan an object using a 3D scanner, or draw it using any CAD software. You can also download most of them free from internet. The digital 3D-model is usually saved in ‘STL’ file format and then sent to the 3D printer. Retrieved from http://www.3ders.org/3d-printing.html

How does it work?
The common process used in 3d printing uses an additive manufacturing technique called Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) to lay down material in layers. The material is melted and poured out layer by layer starting from the base of the object to the top.

What does it cost?
Price starts around 300 Dollars up to millions… for a wide variety of printers, most common printers are shipped as DIY kit (you assemble the printer yourself), pre assemble kit or fully assemble ready to print.
Do they consume power?
All printers I have seen and used do not consume any more than your average flat screen television. Depending on the complexity of the printer, speed settings and the type of material you are printing, an average print time can range from 10 min up to days!! (Longest print I have done so far is a 6 hours print.) On other occasions I have had the printer printing for 32 hours with 2 hours long objects at intervals.

Who uses a 3D printer?
In the past due to price, only the big companies could afford them, mostly used to make prototypes of designs and concept, now it is becoming widely affordable, the REPRAP projects aims at producing low-cost 3d printers using all kinds of parts and components mostly salvaged from old equipment’s and machines.
With the availability of these printers, almost every field of profession has a use of the printer. Students use them make and create projects, schools use it to teach craft and programming to young kids, DIY enthusiasts,hackers, makers and handy hobbyist simply use it to make parts for other stuffs they are making or building.

Whats the main use of your 3D printer
Toys, decorative items (vases)..and mostly using it to make parts for other stuffs I am building or trying out.

Is it the future of manufacturing and production?
Yes and NO
YES: it will change the way we make and get things, Like a desktop printer, a 3D printer in every home simply means no more trip to far away to buy a toy or tool, you simply print one.
No: Not the way it is being talked about ,there is simply too much hype around it. A decent home use 3D printer starts around 1000 dollars, half of the world have no clue what is called internet, no electricity, no PC.

Coolest thing you have 3d printed?
…a capitol building … 5 hours print.
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How do I get one?

  • Buy a complete working 3D printer
  • Buy a complete DIY kit and assemble it.
  • Find a plan online, source for parts and build it.
  • Modify an existing plan/design (make sure it’s an opensource design!) and build it.
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