Home Industry What is a 3D printer and how does it work?

What is a 3D printer and how does it work?

by Miguel Laroche

We can’t talk about a 3D printer without talking about 3D printing. 3D printing, also referred to as additive manufacturing, is a series of processes and technologies that are capable of producing parts and products in several materials. Now, what these products have in common is the layer-by-layer additive manufacturing technique used, instead of the subtractive process which includes molding and casting.

The 3D printing process creates a physical object from a 3D digital model, and a 3D printer helps to achieve this. These new modern-day 3D innovations come in 2 forms- manipulating objects in their digital forms and creating new shapes by adding materials.

The 3D printers use computer-aided design (CAD) to manufacture 3D objects from different materials like powders or plastics. They don’t look like those printers used in sci-fi or magical shows. Instead, they look similar to the traditional 2D printers but use a layering method instead. It starts at the foundation and piles layer upon layer until the entire object is achieved.

3D printers can be used in almost every industry. Contrary to popular opinion, they aren’t only used for prototyping. 3D printers are often used to print the finished product. In the healthcare sector, a 3D printer can be used to fix broken ventilators. The great thing is that it’s very flexible and adaptable, so it’s almost instantly an asset in any industry it finds itself.

The question now is, how does it work?

The mechanism behind a 3D printer

3D printing is similar to traditional inkjet printing, but it’s done in, well, 3D. it’s a combination of powder-like materials, amazing precision tools, and great software to create a 3D model from scratch. Here are some of the steps involved.

1. 3D Modeling:

The first stage of the 3D printing process is 3D modeling. This is because, since 3D printers don’t automatically know what to print, you have to get all precisions right and design the objects in a 3D modeling software.

Furthermore, some designs are too detailed and complicated for traditional modeling techniques. The CAD software comes in to save the day. It helps printers customize their designs to the minutest detail.

2. Model slicing

Remember that this is an additive manufacturing process, and it’s carried out layer by layer. When the model is created, it has to be sliced. Since 3D printers don’t understand how three dimensions work, designers have to slice the model so that the printer can create the final product with ease.

A slicing software helps to scan the layer and teach the printer how to move so that that layer can be recreated. It can also tell it where to fill models.

3. 3D printing process

When the modeling and slicing processes are completed, the 3D printer can come and do its job. If you look at a traditional inkjet 3D printer, you’d think that a 3D printer was in the same category, but they aren’t.

It adds thousands of 2D prints to each other to make a large 3D design.

Final Thoughts

It’s definitely clear that 3D printers are really the future of the manufacturing industry. I’d get one as soon as I can if I were you.

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