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Have you heard about the hype around 3D printing? Then, like us, you are most likely thinking that we are really in for a new boom in high-tech manufacturing, with futuristic-style replication on its way to reality. While a lot of these things are true, it is highly important to know what exactly 3D printing is and how you can use it effectively, especially if you think of it as a potential hobby. Here is what you need to know.
Knowing the Basics
In simple terms, 3D printing is a method of creating solid physical objects from digital 3D models, the process of assembly is the same with that of printing ink on paper. It uses 3D printers, with the most popular today being the extrusion printers, which spray/ooze/extrude material (of which base are usually thermoplastic filament) out of manoeuvrable nozzles and lay it down in layers that eventually make for the finished product. Basically, this method of printing is an additive process, which means that it creates objects by adding layers from the bottom up, with every layer being printed over the preceding ones until the job is complete.
While there are many different types of 3D printing materials existing on the market today, the most common for consumers is the filament. It has a thread-like appearance and is heated and extruded through a moving nozzle. It is layered vertically until a 3D object with width, height and depth is formed. If you got your eyes set on 3D printing to enhance your hobby, you should know the various types of filaments. Here are those that are most commonly used in the industry today:
ABS and PLA
Generally, these types of filaments come in a wide variety of colours and used for an array of 3D printed objects for their ease of use, versatile material properties and limited printing difficulty. While ABS and PLA share some overlaps in their qualities, they actually differ, where the former is extremely durable and used for high-impact applications, while the latter is fairly strong and could be more brittle depending on the geometry of the objects.
HIPS and PVA
These are considered as “support” filaments, which help temporarily support the overhanging geometry of objects. Basically, they are the most common support filaments available today, thus primarily utilized with dual extrusion 3D printers.
The appeal of this type of filament is its ability to create objects with the tactile feel of wood. Take note that there are many wood filaments on the market today, with each having a specific mixture of wood and plastic fibres, such as Coconut, Bamboo, Black (Ebony) Pine, Cork and several other tones.
Though this is relatively a new type of filament used for 3D Desktop printing, ceramics has been seeing some levels of success. One important thing to note when using it is related to post printing, where ceramic parts need to pass through the same processes as with any ceramic part that is made using traditional production methods, such as glazing and firing. Ceramic filaments also require a 3D Desktop printer that can achieve high temperatures when melting the filament, several 3D printers on the market today would not be suitable. Though the amazing filament LayBrick can be used on the majority or current 3D Desktop printers from which you can create detailed models.
There have been a growing number of metals used in 3D Desktop printing. The majority of these filaments use very a fine metal powder that is blended into the filament during the manufacturing process. It is worth noting that just because it is a metal powder does not mean that your printed object is going to be super strong, what is can do is add a level of authenticity when producing objects made out of metal filaments and depending on how solid your printed object is could add weight to what otherwise would be an object printed out of plastic. Current types of 3D Desktop metal printing filaments are, Copper, Brass, Bronze, Stainless Steel and Iron.
There are so many hobbies where we can see 3D Desktop printing being of use, especially when filament types are expanding. From candle making to model building, we are certain that 3D Desktop printing could assist you in your endeavours and possibly even enhance your creativity. Check out the all new and super exciting REFLECT-o-LAY.
3D printing has been increasingly growing in popularity, as it allows people to create specific products in a short period of time without the heavy costs of major production.
What 3D Printing Designers Can Do
Every project begins with an idea, and with 3D Desktop printing, designers can turn such ideas into reality and ultimately prototypes within a short period of time. Without having to physically build something with their hands, they are skilled to use 3D design software to get the job done. From just simple drawings, photos or an idea in your head, concepts can become reality. Photos taken with just a smartphone or digital camera 3D Design professionals can create printable 3D models.
Using the necessary equipment and computers on a regular basis, 3D designers use various forms of design software which make 3D designing and printing look really easy. Though as masters of 3D designing and modeling, these professionals are able to create stunning objects, even those with moving parts for a wide range of end uses.
Where to Purchase or Download 3D Printing Models
3D printing users are able to purchase or download models on a marketplace, where people freely share and sell digital 3D printable files for use on designated printers. Such a 3D printing marketplace has emerged with the fast-growing segment of consumer 3D printers, and as of today, the 3D printing marketplaces existing are a handful, with a business model that is increasingly profitable.
Such a marketplace is composed of a combination of file-sharing websites, including those with or without built in e-commerce capabilities. On these pages, designers upload files for 3D printing, while users purchase or freely download the files for printing. These marketplaces facilitate the management of accounts, server resources and infrastructure, as well as guarantee safe settlement of payments. Some of them also offer additional services, such as location of commercial 3D print shops, 3D printing on demand, dynamic viewing of items and associated software for model rendering, with the most widely used 3D printable file formats as wrl, stl and vrml.
Licensing Issues Surrounding 3D Printing Designs
Currently, intellectual property legislations in developed countries do not explicitly regulate 3D printing, creating a lot of questions on the statute of 3D printing marketplaces. Most of such marketplaces that exist today are quite conservative on the topic of licensing. However, most large 3D printing marketplaces have procedures for copyright complaints, which mean that the further growth of 3D printing and the emergence of more new file-sharing marketplaces will most likely make the issue on copyright become a significant matter for them. If a 3D printed design has a license associated with it then ensure you read its contents.
In 3d printing selecting the right filament is important to ensure you get the results you want. Choosing inappropriate materials can lead to unfavorable 3D printing projects, wasted time, money and effort, as several 3D printers may not be able or are not suited to print some filament types. Having said this, it is important to be familiar with the available filament materials, their individual printing characteristics and properties, especially if you are new to 3D printing.
In this particular discussion, we will take a look at the factors to consider in picking the suitable filament material for 3D printing.
When looking for filament materials and before making an order, check the specifications of the 3D printer you are going to use, specifically the diameter size. This is because the size of diameter required depends on the model of the printer. In 3D printing, filament diameters are either 1.75 mm or 2.85/3.00 mm. Ensure your slicing software is set to use the correct filament when preparing your projects. There are also new 3D printer upgrades that give you the option to print with both diameters.
- Colour options
For a project with a tight budget, sometimes a colour choice can reduce the costs of printing. If you want to lessen the expenses, going for transparent or natural colours can sometimes be the best way to go since they do not require pigment additives. It is also important to be aware of the actual colour that is presented on the screen when you are ordering your filament, colours often look different depending on which device you are viewing it from. Several stores including 3D FilaPrint give you the opportunity to buy small samples at a low cost, ensuring the colour you have in your mind is the colour that you will receive. It goes without saying that there are many shades of grey! It is also worth remembering that some filaments will actually print a different shade/tone of its original colour, when subjected to heat during the printing process. Some manufactured filaments also provide the corresponding RAL colour code.
- Grade and Condition
Filament materials come in many different grades such as 2003D and 4043 for PLA type. You may find that some cheaper but quality manufactured filaments could suit the project you are working on. Additionally, external printing conditions are also worth taking into consideration . No matter which material you are printing with it is good practice to ensure you have adequate ventilation. Though remember a room that is too hot or too cold can effect the final print. The settings that you use to print in the morning in your cosy room may not be the same during a cold winters evening or hot summers day, we have even been informed that altitude 3D printing has its own challenges! 3D Printing with exactly the same filament in a cold garage/classroom will require software/hardware setting changes if you then take your printer indoors (if its warmer that is).
If the printing project does not require large quantities of plastic filament, coil packaging could be practical/cost effective to choose, watch that the uncoiled filament does not become tangled when printing. On the other hand, if working in bulk and a large amount of material is needed, spool packaging is the better option since it is easier to work with, although it can also entail higher shipping costs because of its volume and weight. If you are printing big there are options to purchase larger spools, such as 2.3kg, 4.5kg spools, ask your supplier if this is an option. You may also find that larger spools work out cheaper per gram/kg/lbs.
The type of material is equally important to consider when choosing the right filament for 3D printing. The three common types are Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), Polylactic Acid (PLA) and Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA). ABS is a tad flexible and is more heat resistant. This strong material uses heated bed and can be used for numerous applications. However, it is non-biodegradable and produces fumes in the process. PLA, on the other hand, is a biodegradable type, some more degradable than others, which can be printed on 3D printers that are not fitted with a heated build plate. It is also known for its slight flexibility. Meanwhile, PVA is for printers that have multiple extruders, used to provide material support for complex objects. There are also many filament types available suitable for specific uses in manufacturing, medical, aerospace, engineering and for animal welfare, we are sure you must have heard of Buttercup the Duck!
Being familiar with the features and characteristics of filament materials is imperative to find the appropriate filament for a 3D printing project, with the many different filament types available in the market today, taking time to know what factors to consider will prove to be useful and will save you time and money. If in doubt ask, we are always happy to share our knowledge.
3D printing has been in existence for about three decades but a couple of years ago, it went a notch higher when technology and food connived to bring healthy food options with a touch if creativity, known as 3D food printing. A company called Natural Machines introduced Foodini 3D Food Printer a couple of years ago. This machine, as its name suggests is produces food like magic. It can create savory cuisine with the use of fresh ingredients and prepared before printing. Ten other 3D food printers have made their presence felt during that year through prototypes, from pasta makers to chocolate creators.
3D printing looks promising because it does not only give an individual healthy food options that are appealing to the eyes but it is also considered to be environmental friendly. The question is, does it have a future in the food industry? According to reports, this innovation does. Soon enough, it will not only be used in high end restaurants. At the 3D Printshow 2015 in London, Chef Mateo Blanch created a 5-course meal which included caviar cookies, Framed octopus, hummus and pasta. Is there really a market for this? Here are three possible answers:
Team Kokino came up with a prototype of a 3D food printer that can be used in outer space. This project combines knowledge with software that will be able to help solve the problem of transporting food in space, expiration of food and storage. According to NASA, this innovation is helpful in long missions in space where astronauts can have fresh fruits even after moths since ingredients will be stored in sealed cartridges. Moreover, the prototype is capable of converting waste food into new food. In the future, bringing 3D printers in outer space will be the norm.
- Chefs and Food Establishments
Today, success in the food business is not only limited to taste, creativity and technology go hand in hand to automate how food is prepared and presented. 3D food printers make work easier for chefs when it comes to food customization that cannot be done by hand. Foodini, for one, can print food that is centimeters high so long as there are enough ingredients. Manufacturers are optimistic these products will dominate top professional kitchens in the future.
With people always on the go and having no time to prepare their own food, 3D food printers will soon be making it to the local households. According to experts, as consumers see this technology in restaurants they dine in, they will be familiar with the practice and soon use them at home. This is also because consumers are looking for new products that will meet their demands. With 3D food printers using fresh ingredients, it is not surprising for homemakers to try this innovation. Additionally, geriatric patients and older people who have difficulty in chewing and swallowing can also benefit from 3D food printers. Aside from making the food look appealing, ingredients can be chosen and portions can be prepared easily.
Image owned by NASA.
With the 125,000 grant given by NASA for a pizza-producing food printer and the on-going experiments with printed food and the promise of reducing preservatives and additives in what we eat, there is no doubt there is a market for 3D food printers.
The invention of 3D printing is definitely a great achievement in this modern world. But just like any other electronic advancement, one of the questions this innovation faces is how does it affect our environment? With climate change, pollution, and overpopulation being pressing problems of the times, it is only fair that people are becoming more particular about the impact of new technology on the environment.
3D Printing as a Sustainable Production Method
Because 3D printing allows you to do on-site production, there is less cost, carbon emissions, and energy involved in the process. Aside from that, it is more efficient in terms of material consumption because it employs additive manufacturing. This means you are building products from the bottom up using the material only where you need it.
The 3D printing industry of today is still working to be even more sustainable and eco-friendly. Manufacturers and consumers of 3D printing products continuously assess and find ways to lower their environmental impact, and one of these solutions is to incorporate recycling wherever and whenever possible in the 3D printing process.
Recycling 3D Printing Materials
Manufacturers of 3D printing materials know that plastic products are one of the worst pollutants on Earth. In an effort to lessen the amount of plastic waste, some companies have produced filaments or pellets from recycled plastic products. Others even recycle unused or failed 3D printed prototypes and turn them into filaments. Talk about no wastage!
There are already a handful of 3D printing material manufacturers who accept unwanted 3D prints or unused filament so you can search for one near your locality to contribute to the recycling movement.
Aside from recycling plastic products into new printing materials, there has also been an increase in using more environmentally friendly products for filaments and pellets, such as paper, architectural wood waste, and even agricultural crops.
Reusing or Upcycling Filament Spools
Gathering a pile of filament spools is a problem most 3D printing enthusiasts face. Luckily, with some resourcefulness and creativity, you can put those spools into good use again instead of just dumping them in a landfill. – Sell or donate them to companies that manufacture recycled or new filament.
- Wrap extension cords, string, and wires around them for better organising in your workshop or home.
- Give them to people who are into gift wrapping or crafts that use ribbons, strings, and other materials that can use spools.
- Make toys, like a ferris wheel for your kids or grandkids. Check out this neat mechanised ferris wheel for ideas.
- Use them as funky legs for a lightweight table.
- Need a rotating spice rack? Use one of those filament spools!
- Stick them on walls and use them as quirky pegs for bags, coats, and what-not.
- Create a sculpture using several spools glued together or use a spool as a stand for your sculpture.
Maybe you have even better ideas on how to put those filament spools into good use, so go ahead and test your creativity today.
Supporting Recycling and the 3D Printing Industry
It cannot be denied that the 3D Printing industry will continue to thrive. To make sure that its advancements will have a more positive rather than negative impact on the world, 3D printing enthusiasts should continue to support and be active players in the movement to limit the amount of waste, carbon emissions, and pollution.
When 3D printing was first commercialised in the 1980s it was mostly used for small scale prototypes and its industry growth was quite slow. At that time, the hardware was slow and the prints lacked the properties required for use in products for the medical, electronics, or even home utensils sector. Designs were limited to cheap, disposable plastics that were weak and had no functional properties. But in recent years, the 3D printing industry has been growing rapidly.
The Growth of 3D Printing
More 3D printing software and hardware have been developed not only for the commercial or industrial sectors, but even for hobbyists and product designers working from their own homes. Prices of 3D printers declined. The ability to create highly customised designs on-site became a much speedier process. You could now do quicker design iterations, have more freedom with designs, waste fewer materials, and assemble high-quality end-use parts with a more simplified method. Business and designers began to see the huge opportunity 3D printing presents in manufacturing all types of products, from mobile phones to artificial ligaments.
Demand for more 3D printing materials
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and polylactic acid (PLA) plastics used to be the only materials used in 3D printing. However, 3D printing is now a technology used in architecture, medicine, aerospace, jewellery, and other high-profile industries, and most of the end-use parts used in these industries cannot be made just from ABS or PLA plastics. Thus, the development of novel 3D printing materials needed to be addressed.
As newer materials were introduced or existing ones greatly improved, the filament production industry grew rapidly. In fact, a study in www.idtechex.com states that seven key materials (photopolymers, thermoplastic powders, thermoplastic filaments, metal powders, welding wire, plaster, sand and binder) are predicted to have a total market value of over $8 billion by 2025.
Another reason why there is a growing demand for improved or new 3D printing materials is lot-to-lot variations in the adhesion, melting temperature, and other properties of most materials proved to be a challenge in producing consistent results. Today, filament manufacturers are producing filaments with more consistent viscosities, melting points, and other important characteristics. These materials can print stronger products that are more aesthetically appealing. This is because they have layers that are more tightly bonded and are smoother.
The desire to create more environmentally friendly 3D printed products is another reason for the filament market’s advancement and growth. There is now biodegradable thermoplastic, professionally engineered ABS filament produced from 100% recycled plastic, filament made from coffee by-products, and printing materials made from paper or architectural wood waste composite.
The Role of 3D Printing Materials Advancements in the 3D Printing Industry
It cannot be denied that locally manufactured and highly customised items will become more widespread and affordable as the 3D printing industry continues to move forward. And in order for 3D printed parts to keep up with the market demands, the materials used need to be as advanced, or even more advanced, as the printers.