One of the hottest trends in technology right now is 3D printing. There’s very little doubt that you haven’t heard about this technology, but do you really understand what it means or does? 3D printing isn’t just as simple as telling a machine to make something. There are programs to consider, file formats to use, and materials to pick from. While more common 3D printing uses plastics, some printers use brass, steel, and ceramic.
3D printing isn’t just about advancing technologies, though. With 3D printing we have the capabilities to revolutionize the manufacturing industries. This form of printing can utilize natural and synthetic materials to create objects that would be more difficult and time consuming to make with traditional methods. But, the question remains, what’s the driving technology behind 3D printing.
Early 3D Printing
3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing, which was actually developed in the 1980s. What started out as a process involving lasers and photopolymers, the process has evolved to using various materials like plastic. In the 90s, the term 3D printing started appearing under the name fused deposition modeling, which was actually a form of inkjet deposition of liquid binder on powder. The process was later trademarked as 3D printing
Current 3D Printing
Since the 80s and 90s, 3D printing has come a long way. Today, most 3D printers use acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or polylactic acid (PLA) to make their models. Both of these substances are a type of plastic and come in strands of filament. The filament strands are fed through the printer’s print head, which is usually a box with a nozzle. The way objects are created is by heating up the plastic to a liquid state and then layered to achieve the desired shape.
3D printing is often referred to as Additive Manufacturing because the process of actually creating a 3D model involves very thin layers of the plastic being stacked one
on top of the other. Depending on the size of the model, a print job can take anywhere from a few minutes to months.
The Future of 3D Printing
So, where is 3D printing going? Where is the technology moving to? The ideas behind the future of 3D printing range from small gadgets like phones all the way to printed cars. Those working in the life sciences believe that 3D printing may lead to printed organs and/or limbs. The future of 3D printing is unknown, but, for now, it’s certainly advancing and seeing real growth.
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