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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Katrina

Exploring the Possibilities: A Beginner's Dive into 3D Printing Technology

Updated: Mar 18

Additive manufacturing, commonly referred to as 3d printing, is a process of taking a digital design and creating a physical object from it. This is done by building up a material layer by layer until the finished product is complete. Additive manufacturing only adds the material required to build the part as opposed to subtractive manufacturing which starts with a material and cuts away (subtracts) to produce the part. This revolutionary manufacturing method allows for more complex shapes and designs to be produced.


How can 3D printing be beneficial? Answer: An exuberant amount of material options and colors with the manufacturing capabilities for one-off custom projects all the way to production. Materials can include but are not limited to thermoplastics, thermosets, metals, ceramics, and certifiable materials. If you are in the construction industry and developing a product for hurricanes, there is material for that. If you are a rocket company looking to launch a revolutionary rocket to space, there is material for that. If you are at the dentist and need an implant, there is a material for that. What do all these examples have in common? YES, you now know there is a material for that, but did you also know it is being done using 3D printing?


3D printers come in all shapes and sizes. There are low range printers that can print with general plastics to construction printers laying out foundations for a house to industrial printers manufacturing a full line of custom fitting consumer products. In 2010, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) group “ASTM F42 – Additive Manufacturing”, categorized 7 sectors for Additive Manufacturing processes (Standard Terminology for Additive Manufacturing Technologies, 2012).


- VAT Photopolymerization

- Material Jetting

- Binder Jetting

- Material Extrusion

- Powder Bed Fusion

- Sheet Lamination

- Directed Energy Deposition


The materials used for all these types of printers have different forms such as filament, resin, and powder.


Additive manufacturing has been around since the 80’s, and like all new technologies, it was expensive and was protected under company IP and patents. As time approached the late 2000s, those initial patents began to expire, and it happened to align with the declining prices of electronics, an innovation frenzy exploded. Additive technology began to take shape at a level that made the industry approachable at a consumer level. With all this innovation, numerous additive technologies began to dominate the rapid prototyping and custom application market as it opened new doors for designers and industry experts. Looking at the industry as a whole today, there is not a lot of exposure regarding the application of 3D printing in the world around us. That being said, it is the responsibility of the industry experts like ourselves to inform and educate so businesses and individuals can understand the true benefits of additive manufacturing.


Another part of the responsibility of a company working in a rapidly growing industry is to share knowledge of industry insight to help inform the capabilities of the industry. The moment someone understands what 3D printing is, you can see the lightbulb go off in their eyes on all the possibilities that additive manufacturing has opened up. Additive manufacturing can be found in the following industries:


Aerospace and Aviation

Architectural

Automotive

Military and Defense

Dental

Food and Beverage

Marine

Education

Medical

Construction

Arts and Entertainment

Amusement Parks and Attractions

Sports

Fashion and Jewelry

Oil and Gas

Agricultural

Manufacturing


We would like to emphasize that additive manufacturing is rapidly growing and what you may know of 3D printing from a couple years ago could be completely different now. Printers, software, materials, design, and workflow have been constantly advancing. While trying to learn more about 3D printing, it is beneficial to understand what types of printers and materials are available out there and how it will work with your application. There are resources that are available online for self-education and can be found with a simple web search, "What are some benefits of 3D printing?". Some informational sites for general knowledge include All3DP, 3D Printing Industry, and Ultimaker. If that is not enough, industry experts like AK3D are just a phone call or email away.

In summary, this article highlights the process of additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, where a digital design is used to create a physical object by building up a material layer by layer. This process allows for more complex shapes and designs to be produced and offers an exuberant amount of material options and colors for one-off custom projects or production. 3D printers can come in all shapes and sizes, and there are various types of additive manufacturing processes and materials used, including filament, resin, and powder. With a fast changing industry, harnessing the power of professional 3D printing is a constant to-do. That's why AK3D takes the research and development off your plate and delivers expert solutions tailored to your specific application. Learn how to get started today here!

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