Insights

Demystifying 3D Printing

We all live in an age that is witness to what many are calling the Third Industrial Revolution – 3D Printing. 3D printing, more professionally called additive manufacturing, has the potential to move us away from the era of mass production and bring us to a new reality of customizable, one-off production.
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3D printing or Additive Manufacturing is the broader term for tool-less manufacturing methods which enables to manufacture components from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to conventional subtractive manufacturing methodologies. This tool-less production method changes the approach to manufacturing and thus allows completely new design freedoms.This term is also used generically as a synonym for rapid prototyping.The classification of additive manufacturing based on commonly used technologies is as follows:

– Selective Laser Sintering and Selective Laser Melting
using this technology the metal or plastic powder is melted by the energy of a laser beam or E-Beam. parts are build up in this way – not melted powder is removed after finishing the laser process.
materials
plastics (SLS), metal (SLM).
applications
with this technology prototypes and small batches of parts are produced. It is also used to repair and to buid up material. production of tools is a further application.

– Fused Deposit Modeling
Fused Deposit Modeling is an extrusion process. It is similair to the hot-melt glue applicator  – material is applied on a surface and cools.
Materials used
Plastics
Fields of application
technology is normally used to produce models and consumer articles

-Stereolithografie/Digital Light Processing
Process
parts are build up by curing the fotopolymer with UV-light beam focused on the desired positions
Materials used
Plastics: Photopolymers
Fields of application
technology is normally used to produce models and consumer articles

Laminated Object Manufacturing
process technology
Parts are produced by stacking, bonding, and cutting layers of sheet material on top of the previous one. A laser cuts the outline of the part into each layer. After each cut is completed, the platform lowers by a depth equal to the sheet thickness and another sheet is advanced on top of the previously deposited layers.
used materials
paper, plastics, metal
application fields
LOM is used for production of patterns or models for casting production

– Polyjet
The liquid material is jetted like in a printing process. After deposition of the material on the correct positions, the layer o photopolymer is cured for example by UV-light
used materials
plastics, wax
application fields
patterns, prototypes, casting models

– 3D Printing
Binder is jetted on a layer of sand or other material (metals, ceramic). the base plate with the material is lowered and a new layer distributed on the top. the procedure is repeated for every layer. The binder can be coloured and large parts can be produced.
used materials
minerals, plastics, metals
application fields
production of patterns, models for casting processes

There are many reasons for the success of this technology and the great interest it has aroused: New freedoms in design and construction, fast and tool-less prototype manufacturing, potentials for a reduction of costs in stock-keeping and logistics are just a prelude. 3D printing also gives many causes for controversial discussions with regard to subjects like copyright, protection of intellectual property, etc.

3D printing is printing in the third dimension. This young line of business has many points linking it with traditional machinery manufacturing for the graphic arts industry: Productivity, data handling, reproducibility, precision, norms and standards for quality and security, to give just a few examples. From my point of view, decades of experience, the know-how and the network established within the Printing and Paper Technology Association provide an excellent basis for this key topic of the future.

Large machinery manufacturers, e.g., have departments focusing on 3D printing methods. The latter enable completely new approaches to solutions in development and construction. Industry and commerce see chances
for new business fields in 3D printing on an international scale. The innovative manufacturing methods of 3D printing redefine the manufacturing world: from prototype manufacturing to spare parts planning and one-off production. Pretty obvious examples for individualised parts are to be found in medical engineering. No two people have an identical tooth crown …

Despite all the euphoria one should not allow oneself to be misled and bear in mind that the geometry of a component is often only a fraction of the total engineering achievement. Properties of components like wear resistance, breaking strength and forming properties are characteristics which cannot simply be created with a data file and a handful of powder. 3D printing will certainly not be able to replace well-engineered functional parts and high-quality mass-produced parts of the established engineering industry in the foreseeable future.

In many cases, 3D printing is already an excellent method to accelerate development processes and to satisfy special wishes. Special applications, too, like light-weight construction and space-saving, compact designs are promising fields of activity for the additive manufacturing methods. Design engineers who combine the traditional engineering know-how with the design options of 3D printing are ahead of the game when it comes to optimising the performance of assembly modules.

The performance of the systems must be improved and the investment cost incurred for the systems must not be out of proportion. The cost of material will level off at a healthy level. Since this technology is still in its very early stages, great potentials are to be expected.

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About the author

Aditya Chandavarkar

Aditya Chandavarkar

Aditya Chandavarkar is a established entrepreneur with business interests in manufacturing, innovative technology and consulting. He is the co-founder of CNT Expositions and Services (acronym for Catalysing New Technologies), which was subsequently formed by the acquisition of Inkjet Forum India – a leading knowledge sharing platform for inkjet printing technology founded by him. At Inkjet Forum India, Aditya was single handedly responsible for conceptualizing and organizing conferences and educations programs, in the area of digital textile printing and industrial inkjet.