From the name itself it denotes 3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the entire object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.
How it works
It all starts with making a virtual design of the object you want to create. This virtual design is made in a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file using a 3D modeling program (for the creation of a totally new object) ór with the use of a 3D scanner (to copy an existing object). This scanner makes a 3D digital copy of an object and puts it into a 3D modeling program.
To prepare the digital file created in a 3D modeling program for printing, the software slices the final model into hundreds or thousands of horizontal layers. When this prepared file is uploaded in the 3D printer, the printer creates the object layer by layer. The 3D printer reads every slice (or 2D image) and proceeds to create the object blending each layer together with no sign of the layering visible, resulting in one three dimensional object.
Currently, plastics are the most widely used materials in additive manufacturing, and the important ones are listed below:
ABS – acrylonitile butadiene styrene or ‘lego’ plastic – a very common choice for 3D printing
PLA – polylactic acid – Is available in soft and hard grades, is becoming very popular and may overtake PVA – polyvinyl alcohol – This is used as a dissolvable support material or for special applications.
PC – polycarbonate – Polycarbonate requires high-temperature nozzle design and is in the proof-of-concept stage.
SOFT PLA – polylactic acid – Is rubbery and flexible, available in limited colors and sources. As 3D printing spreads, may get easy to find. etc