As a species we are heavily dependent on technology. Our creative and innovative minds have allowed us to come up with different types of technologies that continue changing the world. Earlier, with the introduction of printing, people were able to easily obtain hard copies of their documents, books and other important files. The introduction of color printing technology allowed us to print colored documents and books in no time. The latest innovation, which promises to revolutionize the world of printing, is 3D printing. This technology came into existence about 30 years ago.
What is a 3D printer?
Imagine a traditional printer, which adds the plastic layer by layer to form a real object in three dimensions. It is controlled by a computer that “reads” a single file containing the model of a 3D object. Initially, this 30 years old technology was very expensive, and up to now it was used only in the industries to achieve rapid prototyping. For some time now, 3D printers have become available to the common people as well, and the prices start at around $600 and for around $1400, you can afford a good quality machine.
How is it different?
Earlier, printing only consisted of reproducing images or texts on papers. These papers could only act as an image of the original object but they could not truly provide us with an insight on the characteristics of the object. However, with the help of 3D printing we can bring the objects to life and reproduce them in such a manner that we can understand the characteristics of the objects. For example, if we take a 3D printout of a chess board, its image will be reproduced with the help of a 3 dimensional object. This object will look very similar to a chess board.
Unlike traditional printing, 3D printing utilizes various methods for reproducing the object and these methods are:
1) Stereolithography or (SLA);
2) Fused Deposition Modeling or (FDM);
3) Selective Laser Melting or (SLM);
4) Selective Laser Sintering or (SLS);
5) Electron Beam Melting or (EBM) and
6) Laminated Object Manufacturing or (LOM) etc.
As of this moment, industries across the planet use several methods for reproducing the images of objects with the help of 3D printing. They choose the methods based on their requirements and when they find that it will be feasible for them to use any particular method. Different engineering institutes are trying to develop more methods of 3D printing.