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What is 3d printing?
3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, is the process of fusing together successive thin layers of material (plastics, metals, etc.) in order to create a 3D object.
What is it used for?
Once a CAD design is finalized, the 3D printer is ready to print. You could have your first prototype within a few hours, test the design, make changes, and print out the next one.
In older automobile models, sometimes unique parts are difficult to find and you need to have a custom one made. 3D printing out a plastic prototype is a cheap way to test its fit before you finance creating a steel or iron one. If the drawings for a part are no longer available, you’ll need reverse engineering to help you recreate the part you need. 3D printing can help you solve that problem, too.
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Pros of 3d printing
Manufacturing parts has never been faster. You can have your first prototype in the palm of your hand within a few hours.
In traditional manufacturing processes, there may be up to ten steps to creating a product. Steps may include: cutting steel, preparation for welding, building the jig, welding the part, grinding and drilling holes, sanding and coating. For 3D printing, all of those steps are built into the machine. Once the CAD design is finalized, the part is ready to print.
The cost of 3D printing can be broken into three categories: machine operation costs, material costs, and labor costs. 3D printing machines have higher efficiency and turnaround, typically making operation costs the lowest contributor. Material costs are usually the highest cost factor, depending on what kind of filament you purchase. The main advantage to 3D printing is the low labor cost, which only requires the operator to push a button.
Design freely and with complexity.
In terms of limits, most complex and intricate geometric designs are in easy reach for 3D printing. The additive manufacturing process creates objects layer by layer, unlike traditional manufacturing, which tends to cut materials away, and therefore, presents more limitations and potential problems.
With 3D printing, custom fits are now easy to make. From sporting gear (sunglasses, fashion accessories) to health care and dentistry (custom prosthetics, implants, dental aids), personalized items are now cheaper to make and more readily accessible.
Since additive manufacturing adds only the materials needed to build the part, there is limited waste. Excess raw materials can be recycled and re-used for another design or part.
Cons of 3D Printing
Starting out is expensive.
3D printing doesn’t have to be expensive. Basic Desktop Printers can cost anywhere from $200-900 which can be pretty affordable for most beginners. However, intermediate and expert printers quickly rise in cost. Hobbyist 3D printers may cost $300-$1500; enthusiasts should expect to pay $1,500-$3,500; professional 3D printers up to $6,000. Industrial 3D printers (made to more limited and expensive materials) may cost anywhere from $20,000-$100,000. Check out a more comprehensive list by clicking here.
Exposure to hazardous fumes.
Experts only! Recent studies have shown that many common 3D printing materials, like plastic filament (called feedstock), emit hazardous vapors and gases during the printing process. Popular thermoplastics ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and PLA (Polylactic Acid) have both been found to release ultrafine particles (UFP) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Emission exposure of these fumes can be avoided with good ventilation. For this reason, some experts advise no more than two printers should be in the same room and some recommend the air volume in the room be replaced four times per hour.
The ultimate beginner's guide to 3D printing
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