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Beginner’s Guide to 3D Printing
Over the past two decades the use of 3D printing has become ubiquitous and embraced throughout virtually every industry engaged in product development. Although the technical term for this manufacturing process is additive manufacturing most people refer to it as simply 3D Printing. While traditional manufacturing processes focus on a controlled means of cutting, carving, and drilling from a solid material to create an object (subtractive manufacturing), 3D printing is an additive process where objects are built layer-by-layer. Today, a variety 3D printing technologies and materials can be used to create anything from prototypes to manufacturing aids to customized end-use parts.
Read more about the 3D printing process, technologies, and applications below.
Computer Aided Design Streamlines 3D Printing Process
The first step in 3D printing anything is to digitally create the object. 3D modeling software design, also known as Computer Aided Design (CAD), is used by designers, engineers, and other professionals for the design and technical documentation of a three-dimensional object. CAD replaces manual drafting with an automated process, and these programs help in many different industries to help users explore design ideas and visualize their concepts by creating photorealistic renderings as well as simulate how their design will perform in the real world.
While CAD allows for modifications to a design, 3D printing allows for rapid prototyping and testing of the design. By 3D printing prototypes during the design process a user can quickly test the fit, function, and feel of their parts. If any modifications are needed to enhance the parts’ features, they can be made in CAD and 3D printed in a quick succession.
Endless Applications Of 3D Printing
As mentioned above, there are many applications of 3D printing with different degrees of sophistication to meet the diverse needs across various industries. Some of the most common uses of 3D printing include:
•Rapid prototyping new designs
•Design validation prior to tooling / production
•Manufacturing aids and tools such as jigs and fixtures
•Low-volume production runs to avoid expensive tooling, production, and inventory holding costs
•Legacy parts no longer supplied or available
In many cases, 3D printing can allow the product development or manufacturing process to be more effective and efficient. Not only has 3D printing proven to provide a reliable and repeatable method for broadening an organizations’ capacity for innovation, it has also opened a world of possibilities not found within traditional manufacturing processes.
Although there are many 3D printing technologies available on the market today, the following three offer an array of benefits and material selections that would meet almost any need.