3D Printing Designers: How Important Their Skills Are and Why

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.

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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.

Important Factors when Choosing a Suitable Filament Material for 3D Printing

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.

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In this particular discussion, we will take a look at the factors to consider in picking the suitable filament material for 3D printing.

  1. Size/Diameter

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.

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  1. 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.

  1. 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).

  1. Packaging

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.

  1. Type

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!

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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.

How 3D Printing and Recycling Go Hand in Hand

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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.

The Advancement of 3D Printing Materials

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.

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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.