What is a 3D Printer
Learn about what a 3D Printer is and how they work from MakerGeeks.com
A materials printer usually performs 3D printing processes using digital technology. Since the start of the twenty-first century there has been a large growth in the sales of these machines, and their price has dropped substantially.
The technology is used for both prototyping and distributed manufacturing in jewelry, footwear, industrial design, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), automotive, aerospace, dental and medical industries, education, geographic information systems, civil engineering, and many other fields.
To perform a print, the machine reads the design from an .stl file and lays down successive layers of liquid, powder, paper or sheet material to build the model from a series of cross sections. These layers, which correspond to the virtual cross sections from the CAD model, are joined together or automatically fused to create the final shape. The primary advantage of this technique is its ability to create almost any shape or geometric feature.
Printer resolution describes layer thickness and X-Y resolution in dpi (dots per inch), or micrometers. Typical layer thickness is around 100 micrometers (µm), although some machines such as the Objet Connex series and 3D Systems' ProJet series can print layers as thin as 16 µm. X-Y resolution is comparable to that of laser printers. The particles (3D dots) are around 50 to 100 µm in diameter.
Construction of a model with contemporary methods can take anywhere from several hours to several days, depending on the method used and the size and complexity of the model. Additive systems can typically reduce this time to a few hours, although it varies widely depending on the type of machine used and the size and number of models being produced simultaneously.
Traditional techniques like injection molding can be less expensive for manufacturing polymer products in high quantities, but additive manufacturing can be faster, more flexible and less expensive when producing relatively small quantities of parts. 3D printers give designers and concept development teams the ability to produce parts and concept models using a desktop size printer.
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