3D printing has taken the world by storm. But what exactly is it? It’s a process that has been developed that involves laying down material into a specially designed printer to form a 3 dimensional object. It could be said it’s the ultimate in modern technology, and more and more creative people are using it at home and the workplace.
What are the benefits?
In the world of design, users are able to quickly create prototypes from ideas. It reduces the need for large warehouses and opens up opportunities for people in remote areas to fabricate projects when needed. In the long run, 3D printers can save money and reduce raw materials.
As 3D printers have become more popular, prices have come down and can be found in domestic houses as well as businesses. As time goes on, we are likely to see more and more sophisticated uses for these super smart printers.
3D printers can make a variety of objects such as jewelry, wax castings, automotive parts, furniture, gifts and many other things. More and more industries are using 3D printing, including healthcare providers to make artificial teeth, prosthetics etc. Experiments are even currently underway at NASA.
So, how can you get into 3D printing and benefit from all it has to offer?
Before you can start experimenting with all your design ideas, you must download the right software. There are several options for software, so be sure to research exactly what each one offers and how accessible they are. Look at reviews to identify which one will work for you. Software such as Blender, Freecard, Fusion 360 and Sketchup are all popular.
When you purchase a 3D printer, it will usually come with a software suite that you need to download or is stored on a separate disc. The program is able to control the printer and the slicer and it formats the file received into layers.
If you struggle to come up with designs yourself, there are plenty of downloadable files that will work with a 3D printer for instant results. It’s important when starting on your 3D printing journey that you prepare yourself for technical issues.
As with all complex technical processes, 2D printing has its fair share of problems, so it’s crucial you gather as much information as possible, so you are armed and ready to solve those annoying problems. How can you do this?
For the bookworms amongst you, reading about 3D printing is a great way to familiarize yourself with the knowledge needed to be a success. Most good books on printing will provide a step-by-step guide you can use as a reference when starting out until you gain more experience.
There are several books to choose from, including a simple handbooks or the series ‘xxxx for dummies’
For the more visual learner, you can utilize sites such as YouTube for free tutorials. The benefit of using tutorials is you can type in a question and get a specific answer with a visual guide.
There are also more comprehensive guides that work through the entire process and provide answers to frequently asked questions and help for solving issues that arise.
For those a bit more experienced, try typing in ‘ultimate plane model’ for a follow along guide that’ll give you some practice and produce an impressive Airbus A380 model.
For those who prefer more in person support, why not sign up for a course in the local area. This will give you the opportunity to share experiences with others and get individual advice. Typically, courses are more costly than online learning, but you may decide it is worth it for the extra help you’ll receive.
Courses will include teaching and hands-on learning where you will need to produce something with the printer that then gets marked by a tutor. This type of learning is invaluable and should include helpful feedback. Be sure to research courses properly and look for reviews to ensure you sign up to a recognized course.
There are some colleges that offer courses in 3D printing and are a less risky option than other courses. College providers are accredited by the relevant authorities, and typically you will receive some sort of recognized qualification at the end.
The question is where do you buy a 3D printer to get started on all your exciting projects? Most manufacturers sell their printers directly, but you can also purchase them through certain retailers such as Amazon.
What printer you choose will largely depend upon what objects you are interested in making. If you intend on making large objects that won’t need smooth surfaces, you will need to purchase an FDM/FFF printer which is able to print areas 220 mm-220mm.
If you primarily want to print small objects such as jewelry, then an SLA or resin printer is better suited to create a smooth finish and a clearer end product.
Another factor to consider when purchasing a printer is whether you want a printer that is ready to go straight out of the box, or whether a ‘kit’ option that you can create. Kit printers are cheaper and not too hard to put together and give you a unique challenge as well as an opportunity to truly understand how it works through the assembling process.
Another important factor is that 3D printers require a fair amount of maintenance. Between printing, the print bed must be cleaned before you can move onto the next one. All moving parts must be oiled and greased to ensure they are efficient. Also, the nozzles need replacing, as well as the LCD screen.
Kit printers are useful for helping you understand what all the moving parts do and help you understand the importance of maintenance.
Objects in a 3D printer take a while to print, so don’t expect immediate results (it’s actually not magic) small objects may take 15 minutes and large objects can take several hours and sometimes days to produce the finished product.
Investing in a 3D printer can lead to great results and open up opportunities for creative business ideas, so do the research and enjoy the journey.