3D printing gives you the ability to create anything in your wildest dreams. Additive manufacturing may seemed to be a new technological development, but it actually started in the 1970s and 1980s, when scientists and graduate students were trying to manufacture products more effectively and efficiently on a small scale.
3D printing did not replaced the core manufacturing processes, such as casting and molding, joining and machining. These processes have only been scaled down with new technologies in manufacturing. New techniques for mathematical and computer modeling of three-dimensional solids have allowed researchers to translate geometric models and computer graphics into instructions for equipment control systems.
As 3D printing evolved, it takes on new processes and advances in manufacturing. These, in turn, grows to support rapid fabrication from digital models or templates. The variety of geometries possible surpasses the capabilities of yesterday’s processes.
The larger part of 3D printing technology was invented and patented in the 1980s. To better understand today’s technology, let’s review some of the components that contributed to making it. First, “additive manufacturing” is a process of following a digital design or template to make something three dimensional. This process extrude the chosen material and deposits it layer after layer after layer to form an object.
Here’s a brief overview of the original 3D printing process:
Stereolithography. Sometimes referred to as vat photopolymerization, it is an additive production process that uses resins and capsules to construct 3D objects.
Selective laser sintering (SLS), also known as powder bed fusion, uses heat to selectively “sinter,” or fuse, tiny particles of plastic, ceramic or glass into a solid, three-dimensional object.
Sheet lamination. In laminated object manufacturing a thin sheets of paper, plastic or metal is unwound from feed roll, cut into a desired shape, and then bonding it onto the previous one. The stack is the end product as it becomes the final three-dimensional object.
Material extrusion works by pushing the plastic or metal through a nozzle, where it is heated and is then deposited layer by layer.
3D printing, also known as binder jetting, is a manufacturing process where a liquid binding agent is squirted on layers of powder particles. The 3D object is formed by gluing the particles together.
"It has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor – who have carried us up the long rugged path towards prosperity and freedom," said President Obama. And I write about their creativity and resourcefulness.