• Dr Izhar Aziz

3d Printing Technology

It starts with a 3D Digital model which can be created using a variety CAD software like inventor, solid works, catia, space claim and etc. You also can scan the desired part with 3D scanner. The digital file (3d model) is then sliced into layers thereby converting the design into file readable by the 3d printer. The material processed by the 3d printer is then layered according to the design and the process. There are number of different types of 3d printing technologies which process different materials in different ways to create the final object. Functional plastics, metals, ceramics and sands are now all routinely used for industrial prototyping and production applications. plastic is currently the only widely used material such as ABS, PLA and nylon.

SLS 3d printed parts

Different types of 3d Printers each employ a different concept to process the material. One of the most basic limitation of 3d printing in terms of material and application is that there is no one solution fits for all. for example some 3d printers process powdered materials (nylon, plastic, ceramics, metal) which utilise a light/heat source to sinter/melt/fuse layers of the powder together in the defined shape. Others process polymers resin materials and again utilise a light/laser to solidify the resin in ultra thin layers. Jetting of fine droplets is another 3D printing process reminiscent of 2d inkjet printing but with superior materials to ink and a binder to fix the layers. Perhaps the most common and easily recognised process is deposition and this is the process employed by the majority of entry level 3d printers. This process extrudes plastics commonly PLA or ABS in filament form through a heated extruder to form layers and create the intended shape. Because parts can be printed directly, it is possible to produce very detailed and intricate objects often with functionality built in and negating the need for assembly. However, another important point to stress is that none of the 3d printing process come as plug and play options as of today. There are many steps prior to pressing print and more once the part comes off the printer. Apart from the realities of designing for 3d printing, which can be demanding, file preparation and conversion can also prove time consuming and complicated particularly for parts that demand intricate supports during the build process. However, this part often get software updates in terms of function and its getting better. as for post processing, many parts need to undergo finishing process. Support removal is obvious one for process that demand support but others include sanding, lacquer, paint or other types of traditional finishing touches which all typically need to be done by hand and require skills, time and patience. Stay tuned!

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