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An Introduction to 3D Printing
3D printing is an additive manufacturing process used to create 3D objects. Materials are joined and solidified together to construct a shape of virtually any geometry and is commonly used in education lesson plans, hobbyists, prototyping and proof of concept and end use functional parts. A wide range of 3D printing technologies and materials are available on the market depending on the application and budget however by far the most common of these technologies is FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication). FFF 3D printers most commonly print in PLA or ABS plastic however with use of other technologies, it is also possible to 3D print resin, carbon fibre and metal, though these 3D printers are far less cost effective.
Additive manufacturing is a process where material is “added” together to create a 3D object as opposed to other traditional methods of manufacturing which incorporate a subtractive process where material is removed to create a 3D object, such as CNC machining. Additive manufacturing saves waste material, time and cost.
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Key Benefits of 3D Printing
Time to Market
The ability to produce designs quickly and easily in-house can dramatically speed up the research and design phase of any project.
3D Printing materials are a cost effective way to produce multiple incarnations of your designs whilst retaining total control.
Create one off designs that would be impossible to source from a traditional manufacturer and avoid costly mass production.
3D printing is a fun and versatile way to produce an infinite number of designs and is ideal for professionals and makers alike.
3D Printing Resources
Reliability of PLA and strength & durability of ABS
Good layer adhesion
Reduced warping and shrinking
Excellent overall mechanical properties. Widely available & commonly used material
Prone to warping
Low resistance to UV
Highly durable. Able to withstand high stress
High chemical resistance
Ideal for 3D printed tools
High chemical resistance
High impact strength, tough and dimensionally stable
Odourless and emits few UFPs (ultrafine particles) and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) during printing
Soluble support material
No marks left on print after support material is removed
Reliable adhesion to common build materials
Dissolves in limonene, can be used as a support material
Similar strength to ABS
Minimal shrinkage & warping
Combines multiple materials into 1 combined material, extending 3D printing possibilities
Materials for demanding applications including glass & carbon fibre reinforced composites
Wood & metal affect material for aesthetics
Available for DLP & DPP 3D printing
Ideal for intricate prints
Available in firm, flexible, semi-flexible, high tensile and rigid depending on application