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3D printers: Learn all about the materials, types of printers & more

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3D printing is one of the fastest growing technologies today. It's a way of creating three-dimensional objects by using a printer that builds up the materials layer by layer.

3D printing is a way of creating three-dimensional objects by using a printer that builds up the materials layer by layer. It is one of the fastest growing technologies today. 

In this article, I'll explain exactly what 3D printing is, how it works, and what you can use it for.

What is a 3d printer

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What is 3D printing?

3D printing is a method of creating an object by building it up layer by layer using different technologies. It is an additive manufacturing technique, which means that the object is built up by placing successive layers of filament on top of each other until the desired shape is achieved.

How does 3D printing work?

The 3D printing process starts by creating a digital design of the desired object using CAD (Computer Aided Design) software or by scanning an existing object using 3D scanners. The design is then converted into construction drawings that the 3D printer (the best for the home reviewed here) can understand.

The 3D printer uses an extruder to melt filament and deposit it in a locally targeted manner. Some printers use molten filament that is glued and fixed until it solidifies, while other printers use laser or other applied technologies to build the filament.

The filament is laid down layer by layer until the desired object is reached. The process ensures a virtually smooth surface and superior quality of the object.

What are the benefits of 3D printing?

  • It is a cheap production technique
  • It allows to create complex objects
  • It is a manipulable technology, making it possible to modify or model the object while it is being printed
  • It offers the possibility to create prototypes before the object is produced
  • It is a new and emerging technology that offers many possibilities for the future

The Basics

3D printing is a relatively new technique that has become increasingly popular in recent years. In this article we answer the most important questions about 3D printing.

The limitations of 3D printing

Although 3D printing offers many advantages, there are also limitations to this technique. For example, it is still expensive to print large objects and some materials are not yet suitable for 3D printing. Moreover, the speed of printing is still relatively low, making it unsuitable for mass production.

The most popular 3D printers

There are hundreds of different 3D printers, ranging from low-cost initiatives to industrial machines costing tens of thousands of euros. One of the most popular 3D printers is the Ultimaker, which is used by both individuals and businesses.

The materials that can be used

There are many different materials that can be used for 3D printing, including plastics, metals and ceramics. Some materials are suitable for specific applications, such as printing electronics enclosures or making miniature objects.

Glossary

  • 3D printer: a machine that can print three-dimensional objects
  • Nozzle: The movable nozzle through which the material is extruded
  • Digital Design: A design created using software on a computer
  • Hardening Process: The process of hardening the material after it is extruded from the nozzle
  • Plastic: A chemical that can be used as a material for 3D printing
  • Prototype: A test version of a product used to test and improve the design
  • Mass production: producing large quantities of products in a short period of time
  • Prosthesis: An artificial body part used to replace a missing body part.

How does 3D printing work?

The fundamental method of 3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing. This means that the printer builds the object layer by layer, following the same design as the digital model. The material is placed directly on the build platform without the need for special tools or cutting tools.

The alternative term for 3D printing

An alternative term for 3D printing is additive manufacturing. This highlights the fundamental difference between this method and traditional production technologies, which use subtractive or formative methods.

The special knowledge and practice that 3D printing requires

To get started with 3D printing, you first need to choose and buy a printer. This can be done online or at a local supplier. Next, you need to create or download a digital model of the object. You then need to load the model into the printer's software and go through the basic steps to print the object.

The process of 3D printing requires special knowledge and practice to do it right. It is important to understand the limitations and advantages of the printer you have, as well as the properties of the material you are using.

History of 3D printing

To get the best results from 3D printing, it is important to prepare the files correctly and ensure the correct settings. Here are some tips and recommendations:

  • Get a good 3D design software and learn how to use it.
  • Use the correct file format, such as STL or OBJ.
  • Ensure good resolution and detail of the object.
  • Provide the proper support structure to support the object during printing.
  • Make sure you have the right print settings, such as the right temperature and speed.
  • Test the object on a smaller scale before printing it at full size.
  • Provide good finishing to the object after printing, such as sanding and polishing.

3D printing offers enormous possibilities and has the potential to change the way we make and produce things. With the right knowledge and skills you can get started with this technology yourself and bring your own creations to life.

Advantages & Disadvantages of 3D Printing

Benefits

Flexibility and speed:

3D printing offers a unique set of possibilities for designing and manufacturing products. It enables designers and technical specialists to quickly and flexibly create and develop prototypes. This is especially important in a developing market where speed is of paramount importance. The push of a button can produce a new model, resulting in significant cost savings over traditional manufacturing processes.

Less waste:

3D printing makes it possible to produce only the desired object, so that no unnecessary stock is created. This reduces the amount of waste that would otherwise end up in the bin. In addition, materials can be recycled and reused.

Wide range of materials:

3D printing offers a wide variety of materials, including plastics, carbon, and even metal. These materials can be used to achieve the desired properties. It also makes it possible to produce in a socially responsible manner by using sustainable materials.

Custom production:

3D printing makes it possible to customize products. This is especially important for products that must have certain properties, such as medical implants. It also makes it possible to produce products that would otherwise be unavailable.

Cost reduction:

3D printing can provide significant cost savings for businesses. It enables them to be more flexible in the production process and to deploy staff more efficiently. In addition, products can be customized, reducing waste.

Cons

Design limitations:

3D printing has limitations in the design of products. This is especially true for complex shapes and structures. It is important to take this into account when drawing up a design.

Technical knowledge required:

3D printing requires a basic technical knowledge to understand the process properly. It is important to work with a specialist to get the best results.

Delivery time:

3D printing can have a longer delivery time than traditional manufacturing processes. In some cases it can take up to several weeks for the product to be ready.

Cost of accessories:

The cost of 3D printing accessories can be high. This is especially true for the purchase of a 3D printer itself.

Production processes and transportation:

3D printing cannot always be the best solution for production processes and transport. In some cases, it can be more expensive than traditional methods.

Which materials can you 3D print?

A 3D printer is a device that can produce three-dimensional objects by using a digital design. This process is also known as additive manufacturing, which means that the object is built up layer by layer. It is an alternative production method to subtractive and formative tools, which require cutting tools to remove geometry from a block of material or to shape a material through pressure.

But which materials can you actually 3D print? Below is an overview of the most common materials used in the 3D printing industry.

Filaments

Filaments are the most commonly used materials in the 3D printing industry. They are thin wires of plastic that come on a spool and are placed directly on the build platform of the 3D printer. The filament is then converted into a three-dimensional object.

PLA

PLA (polylactic acid) is a biodegradable filament type made from corn starch. It is one of the most used filaments because it is easily available and comes in many colors. PLA is strong, hard and aesthetically a good choice for objects used indoors. However, it has limitations in terms of heat resistance and water resistance.

ABS

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is a thermoplastic filament type often used for making functional objects. It is strong, hard and heat resistant, but not water resistant. ABS is available in many colors and is often used to make toys, phone cases and household items.

PETG

PETG (Glycol-Modified Polyethylene Terephthalate) is a strong, flexible and water-resistant filament type suitable for making objects that are used outdoors. It is available in many colors and has a higher melting temperature than PLA and ABS.

Nylon

Nylon is a flexible filament type suitable for making objects that require a high degree of flexibility. It is available in many colors and can be soluble in acetone.

Wood filament

Wood filament is a unique set of filaments that contain wood fibers. The filament is mixed with plastic and can be used to make objects that really look and feel like wood. It is available in different colors and can be used to make furniture, toys and other decorative objects.

Metallic filaments

Metallic filaments are filaments that contain metals and can be used to make objects that look and feel like metal. These filaments are more expensive than plastic filaments and often require a special 3D printer to be used.

Steel

Steel filaments are available in different types and can be used to make objects that are strong and durable. However, it is an expensive filament type and often requires a special 3D printer to be used.

Copper

Copper filaments come in a variety of colors and can be used to create objects that look and feel like copper. However, it is an expensive filament type and often requires a special 3D printer to be used.

Other filaments

In addition to plastic and metal filaments, other filaments are available that can be used for 3D printing.

SO

ASA (Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate) is a filament type that is similar to ABS, but more resistant to UV radiation and weathering. It is available in many colors and is often used for making outdoor objects.

Filling

Stuffing is a type of filament that consists of small pieces of plastic compressed into a block. It can be used to create objects that are complete and have no voids. Filling comes in a variety of colors and can be used to create objects that look and feel like stone.

Tips for buying and using a 3D printer

If you want to buy a 3D printer, there are a number of important aspects that you should take into account. Below you will find a number of tips to help you make the right choice.

Determine your requirements and wishes

Before you buy a 3D printer, it is important to ask yourself what you want to use it for. Do you want to print small objects or large ones? Does the printer need to be able to print quickly or is that less important? Do you want a plug-and-play model or are you handy enough to assemble a kit? By answering these questions, you can determine which specifications and functionalities are important to you.

Compare different models

There are many different 3D printers on the market, each with their own set of specifications and functionalities. It is therefore important to compare different models before making a decision. On a comparison page you can compare the available models and make a well-considered choice.

Note the dimensions

Before you buy a 3D printer, it is important to consider where you want to put it and how big it can be. Pay attention not only to the outer dimensions, but also to the dimensions of the printing surface. This can vary from around 100mm to as much as 400mm on some industrial models.

Watch the extruder

The extruder is the part of the 3D printer that melts the filament and deposits it on the printing surface. It is important to understand how the extruder works and what options are available. For example, there are 3D printers with a double extruder, with which you can print two colors or materials at the same time.

Pay attention to the built-in functionalities

Some 3D printers have built-in features that make printing easier. For example, some models have an automatic bed leveling function, which allows the printer to level the printing surface itself. There are also printers with a built-in camera, so you can follow the printing process.

Test the printer before you buy it

If you buy a 3D printer, it is important to test it before taking the plunge. This way you can determine whether the printer meets your requirements and whether you encounter any problems while printing. Some manufacturers offer a trial period where you can try out the printer before committing to a final purchase.

Remember the limitations and drawbacks

While 3D printing is a great idea, there are also limitations and drawbacks to be aware of. For example, printing large objects is often time-consuming and the printing area of ​​some models may be too small for certain projects. You also have to take into account the cost of filament and the time it takes to print an object.

Towards the near future

3D printing is a rapidly developing technology and more and more unique possibilities are being added. It is therefore important to keep yourself informed of the latest developments and to gain insight into the direction in which technology is developing. This way you can ensure that you buy the best 3D printer that suits your requirements and wishes.

Conclusion

3D printing is a rapidly growing technology that is changing rapidly. You can make all kinds of objects with it and it's also cheap.

So, if you want to buy a 3d printer, take a look at the different models and brands. As you can read, it is an excellent way to develop your creativity and it is also fun to do.

Always something to do for the holidays or rainy day?

Play Choice now has the ultimate activity book collection, with over 60 pages of fun coloring pages and educational puzzles.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Speelkeuze.nl is a content marketer, father and loves trying out new toys. As a child he came into contact with everything related to games when his mother started the Tinnen Soldaat in Ede. Now he and his team create helpful blog articles to help loyal readers with fun play ideas.