3D Printing – also commonly known as 'Additive Manufacturing' (AM) - is a process that allows you to create three-dimensional objects from a digital or scanned file. Put simple, 3D printers are a type of 'industrial robots'. This technique involves 'additive processes’ in which materials are layered consecutively until the whole object is created. The object can be of any shape, design, or geometry. Specifications are always computer controlled.
How does 3D Printing work?
The first step consists of making virtual designs of the objects to be produced. If the object to be produced already exists and a replica or copy is needed, then CAD software and the product’s 3D scanner image are used to make the design; however, if the object to be produced is new, then CAD software and a 3D modeling program are used to make the virtual design. Afterward, the software breaks the definitive model into several horizontal layers (perhaps hundreds or thousands). Afterward, the file is loaded into a 3D printer which will print the respective object layer by layer. 3D printers create objects by blending the layers together uniformly (i.e. the layers will not be visible individually). The final result is a three-dimensional product.
Even though the 3D technology has been the focus of attention for technology experts for decades, the actual development of additive manufacturing materials and equipment began some time in the 80s. Chuck Hall invented the 'Stereolithography' technique in 1986 when he also founded his company, 3D Systems.
Technologies and methods of 3D Printing
Each 3D printer is unique, a 3d printing service in Vancouver may differ from one in Toronto. There are important differences in the way in which each material layers is built upon another to produce the final object. Certain methods involve softening or melting material to create these material layers. The most common technologies utilized to print materials are: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). The third method employs liquid material cured with various technologies to create objects; the most common technology for this particular method is Stereolithography (SLA).