How Does a 3D Printer Work?

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3D printing technology uses additive manufacturing and is available in different variants, sizes and shapes. It doesn’t matter what type of material or printer you are using. All 3D printers follow the required steps below.

A printer is an external hardware device that takes electronic information stored on a computer or other device and makes a hard copy of it. For example, if you don’t have the ability to run a report on your computer, you can print out some duplicates to hand out at a staff meeting. Printers are one of the most well known computer peripherals and are regularly used for printing text and photos.

What is a 3D printer?

Engineer and physicist Chuck Hull was the first inverted 3D printer in the 1980s, and this innovation has made significant strides. The invention is also referred to as additive manufacturing. It is the process of making objects where the material is held one minute layer at a time. The difference between the standard desktop printer and a 3D printer is that the regular inkjet printer scatters small dots of ink to create an image. In contrast, the digital printer is based on materials for adding digital files that require an image to be created.

The traditional manufacturing process has recently been converted to subtractive manufacturing to produce the desired part. Subtractive manufacturing cuts the excess parts. Findings from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Lab conclude that subtractive manufacturing wastes up to 30 pounds of material to make 1 pound of useful material.

The 3D printing process uses 98 percent of the raw material in the finished part. The 3D printer creates lighter parts and new shapes from the raw material, which requires fewer manufacturing steps. The possibilities of additive manufacturing are limitless. The 3D printer uses metal and plastic powder to make small and easily expensive components.

This is how a 3D printer works:

Additive manufacturing technology comes in different versions, sizes and shapes. It doesn’t matter what type of material or printer you are using. All 3D printers follow the required steps below.

First, a 3D design is created using the computer-aided design software – the 3D printers that are used to design and manufacture everything from robots to customer shoes to musical instruments. An Oak Ridge National Lab partnered with a company to make the first 3D printed car using a large 3D printer.

After the 3D printer is created, the printer needs to be prepared, including preparing the build platform and refilling the raw material. The extrusion material works like a glue gun.

The printing material is like a plastic thread that is heated until it turns into a liquid and extrudes through a pressure nozzle. Using the information provided in the digital file, the design is split into two-dimensional cross-sections. The printer knows the exact location where the material should be deposited. The nozzles often deposit 0.1 millimeter thick polymer thin layers.

The polymer sets quickly and bonds quickly to the layer below before the printer adds another layer. The printing process depends on different sizes and types of objects. It can take a few minutes to days.

Once the printing is complete, each item requires a touch of post-processing. The process can range from detackifying the object during construction, removing support structures (fickle material printed to avoid overhangs on the item), or removing excess powders.

Types of 3D printers:

In recent years, the printing industry has made tremendous developments by developing various technologies. In 2012, standard terminology was published by an international standards organization that divides additive manufacturing technologies into seven categories. Below is a brief description of the different types of 3D printing.

Material jet:

It works like a standard desktop printer in that material is deposited using an inkjet printer head. Its process requires plastic that needs light to solidify. The material jet can print wax and other material. The material blasting machine is expensive and its construction time is relatively short. The use of an additional inkjet printer nozzle creates accurate parts using multiple materials.

Binder Jetting:

Powder is used for printing. A thin layer of powder moves over the construction platform. The digital file indicates the location and then the printer sprays a glue-like solution to put the powder together in selected places. The process is repeated continuously until the printing process is complete and the excess powder used to support the object during the building process is removed and saved for later use. Binder jetting is mainly used to create large parts. It’s quite expensive for large systems.

Powder bed fusion:

Powder bed fusion and binder jet are similar except for one function. In powder bed fusion, the powder layers fuse with the help of a heat source such as an electric bean or a laser. The powder bed process can produce high quality, vital metal parts and strong polymers.

Directed energy deposition:

Directed Energy Deposition comes in several flavors, but its types follow the same process. Powder material or wire is used in its deposition. The thin layers of powder are melted using high energy sources such as a laser. Directional energy deposition systems are more commonly used to repair existing parts, and they are also used to create or create large-scale functions.

Sheet lamination:

It creates a 3D object by joining the thin webs of material using low-temperature heat sources. Sheet metal lamination systems allow manufacturers to print using heat sensitive materials such as electronics and paper. For the additive process, it offers the lowest material costs. The sheet lamination process is less accurate compared to other additive manufacturing systems.

Vat photopolymerization:

Photopolymerization is one of the oldest types of 3D printers. A 3D object is created using liquid resin and unique lights. Photopolymerization uses either a laser or a projector to trigger the chemical reaction. The choice of laser or projector depends on the type of printer. The minute detail process can produce very accurate parts, but the material choices are minimal and the photopolymerization machines are expensive.

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