The Wide World of 3D Printing

Probably everyone in their life has heard someone mention something called “3D Printing,” but what is it, how does it work, and what are its applications?

3d.printing

3D printing is the process of “printing” a three-dimensional object. Pretty simple, huh? There are a few different methods of accomplishing this, which I will discuss below.

1. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

The first method is called Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). Using this method, a 3D printer uses a plastic filament or metal wire which is unwound from a coil to supply material to the extrusion nozzle. As material is being fed through the nozzle, the nozzle is heating the material onto a platform, which moves relative to the nozzle to create the object.

FDM

2. Stereolithography (SLA)

With Stereolithography (SLA), a vat of liquid photopolymer resin and an ultraviolet laser are used. The UV laser traces a pattern into the resin, layer by layer. Did I mention that the layers are typically .05mm in thickness? After the layer goes through and hardens the photopolymer, a resin-filled blade fans across the object, coating it with new material, and a pattern is traced on the new material, joining the previous layer.

SLA

3. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is a process of using a high-powered laser to fuse small particles of plastic, metal, or glass powders into a 3D object. The laser selectively fuses the powder in layers by scanning cross-sections onto the powder bed. After a cross-section of a layer is scanned, the bed is lowered one layer, and the process is repeated until the object is finished.

SLS

Now for the fun part… what you can do with it!

1. Make a Camera and Lens

That’s right, in only 15 hours and for $30 in parts, you can make a fully functional SLR camera that takes pretty good pictures. If you decide to print the lens, instead of buying a regular one, it lessens the picture quality… but I mean… a 3D camera!

Click here for the instructions.

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2. Yourself

Using 3D printing, you can make accurate busts and figurines of yourself, your family, and your friends. Three words: Little army men.

3dbustandfigurine

3. Instruments

“Nice guitar!” “Thanks… I made it!” You can print your own instrument! And while most aren’t professional quality, they would look really cool on your bedroom wall.

americana-guitar-3d-printed-5

4. Flying Objects

Go print out a glider, airplane, or even a quadracopter because, well, why the heck not?

pl1q_vampire_display_large_preview_featured

5. Body Parts

Some 3D printers are advanced enough to print body parts, such as arms and legs, but that’s mediocre compared to the ones printing ears and hearts. A Brooklyn doctor used a 3D printer to help repair the heart of a newborn baby whose heart was the size of a walnut. Read about the whole story here.

3D-printed-ear-300x180

That’s it for now. Click this link for some additional sources and have fun printing!

-David

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