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Understanding the Basics of 3D Printing
3D printing is a concept or a technology that a lot of people in the world are not even aware of, let alone familiar with. Even though people may have heard of 3D technology for quite some years, it is only recently that the technology has made ground in terms of progress and development. Contrary to popular belief, 3D printing technology is not only confined within restricted hi-tech research facilities. 3D printers are on the verge of being mass produced throughout the world. It is only a matter of time before we can label 3D printers as consumer goods that will be thoroughly utilized in every single household in America and abroad. Before we get to that stage, it is important for us to have a basic understanding of the fundamentals of 3D printers and get an insight into what is really meant by 3D printing technology. Rest assured, this is going to be quite unlike anything that you have come across before.
What is 3D Printing?
There is an alternative name for 3D printing that you should be aware of if you are interested in learning more about this remarkable technology. 3D printing is often referred to as additive manufacturing, and once you get to understand the basics, you will realize that the alternative name is a much more accurate label for this technology. As the more popular name suggests, 3D printing is a process or a technology that enables the making of three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. In other words, 3D printing creates the much sought after bridge between the virtual world and the real world. A virtual concept is being mapped onto elements that belong in the real world. When you think about it, the technology is absolutely marvellous and extremely fascinating. It is one of those rare cases where you go, “who could have possibly thought of that?”
Additive processes are used in the creation of a 3D printed object. What is an additive process? Well, in an additive process, the object in question is formed by laying down successive layers of material until the entire object has been fully created. You can think of each layer as a thinly sliced horizontal cross section piece of the entire object.
What is the Working Mechanism Behind 3D Printing?
Now that you are aware of the names of the processes that are involved in the creation of 3D printed objects, it is important for you to learn in depth about the working mechanism behind these revolutionary and ground breaking processes. In doing so, you will be able to truly appreciate the ingenuity of 3D printing and grasp a fundamental understanding of what this technology is being used for and what it can be used for in the not so distant future. Remember the digital file we talked about? The digital file contains a virtual design of the object that is going to be 3D printed. Therefore, if you want to kick start the 3D printing process, you need to come up with a virtual design that you are going to use. The simplest, easiest and most effective way of creating a virtual design is through a Computer Aided Design, which is otherwise known as a CAD file. With the help of this file and using a 3D modelling program/3D scanner, a 3D digital copy of an object is made.
Different forms or types of technology are used by the 3D scanners to generate a 3D model. Examples of these include time of flight, volumetric scanning, modulated light and many others.
According to news covering recent developments in this field, some of the major players in the industry such as Google and Microsoft have done an incredible job of enabling their hardware to carry out 3D scanning. A perfect example of that would be Microsoft’s gaming device, the Kinect. This is an indicator of the fact that the future of smartphones will heavily involve integrated 3D scanners. In other words, digitalizing real objects onto 3D models will be no more difficult than taking a picture on your smartphone. If that does not get you excited about 3D printing, were are not quite sure what will.
Preparing a Digital File for Printing
When you are preparing a digital file for printing, you are basically relying on the 3D printing software to divide the final model into hundreds or thousands of cross sectional pieces or slices that will form the horizontal layers of the eventual object. Once the sliced file has been uploaded in a device known as the 3D printer, the person in charge of the entire operation can proceed to creating the object layer by layer. Each and every single slice or 2D image is read by the 3D printer. It is not exactly the fastest process in the world, but the speed will be much improved as developments keep on rolling in nearly every single day. The layers are blended together, so that there is no mark of individual layers on the final object. After a certain period of time, you will have a perfectly constructed 3D object at your disposal.