What is 3D printing?
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of making a physical object out of a three-dimensional digital model. There are multiple different types of 3D printing technology, but most machines use liquid plastic or resin to build up the object, one thin layer at a time, upon a build platform. The technology was invented for rapid prototyping in the 1980's and required large industrial machines, but affordable desktop printers have finally become available to businesses, educators, and hobbyists.
What are practical uses for 3D Printing?
Here are some examples of practice and use in an educational environment:
Fused Filament Fabrication - FFF (also known as Fused Deposition Modeling - FDM): In this method, a lightweight plastic filament is fed through the nozzle, heated up to its melting point and then extruded onto a build plate surface, hardening upon impact. This process continues depositing the melted filament layer by layer until a 3-dimensional object is formed. FDM printers are especially good for low-cost rapid prototyping.
Stereolithography - SLA: This type of printer forms each layer by using a highly precise laser to cure liquid resin into solid plastic. The building surface is repeatedly lowered into the vat of liquid as the laser selectively solidifies the material. SLA printed parts are generally smoother, stronger, and more precise than those printed with other techniques.
Selective Laser Sintering - SLS: This method is similar in concept to SLA, except it uses the laser to melt and fuse particles of nylon powder to form the solid plastic part, instead of liquid resin. An advantage of SLS printers is that parts do not need to be printed with vertical support structure, as the surrounding powder provides support instead.
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