Parts and products created through 3D printing are easy to make, highly accurate, and extremely strong.
And, it’s ideal for product manufacturing, rapid prototyping, and mechanical testing. 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, has now become the go-to for those individuals and companies looking to accelerate their product development; creating prototypes quicker, easier, and more cost-effectively than ever before.
Put simply, 3D printing is the creation of a three dimensional solid object from a digital model.
With advances in materials and efficiency in additive manufacturing technologies, the opportunity to use 3D print processes for low-volume manufacturing is easily and inexpensively realized. A primary benefit is that parts can be developed as you need them (just-in-time production).
It may come as a surprise, but additive manufactured parts can be as strong as traditionally manufactured metal components. In fact, the porosity of an object made by a high-quality 3D printer can reach 99.5% density.
The digital printing of parts allows for changes to be made during production without seriously impacting costs, incurring delays, or tooling modifications.
How Does Additive Manufacturing Work?
The process begins with a 3D model. The model is scanned with a device such as the Creaform Handyscan 3D scanner and provides the foundation for the additive manufacturing processes.
In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the resulting item.
Additive manufacturing is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing which is the cutting or hollowing out of a piece of metal or plastic with, for instance, a milling machine.
3D printing enables you to produce complex shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods.
Applications of 3D Printing
Additive manufacturing technologies and materials are being used across sectors and in almost any industry you can think of.
A few examples:
- clear aligners / braces in dentistry
- architectural scale models & maquettes
- industrial research and development
- movie props
- design (lamps, furniture, toys, etc.)
- reconstructing fossils in paleontology
- replicating ancient artifacts in archaeology
- reconstructing bones and body parts in forensic pathology
- reconstructing damaged evidence retrieved from crime scenes
Rapid Prototyping & Rapid Manufacturing
Companies have used 3D printers in their design process to develop prototypes since the late seventies. Using 3D printers for these purposes is called rapid prototyping.
Why use 3D Printers for Rapid Prototyping?
In short: it’s fast and relatively cheap. From idea, to 3D model, to holding a prototype in your hands takes only a matter of days instead of weeks. Iterations are easier and cheaper to make and you no longer need expensive molds or tools.
Besides rapid prototyping, 3D printing is also used for rapid manufacturing. Rapid manufacturing is a new method of manufacturing where businesses use 3D printers for short run / small batch custom manufacturing.
Additive manufacturing provides competitive advantages, particularly when it comes to reducing vital time-to-market. The ability to quickly produce a working, or final, iteration cheaply and more efficiently provides a range of valuable savings as you advance your product commercialization.