This is a very interesting topic and also very extensive in which I will have much more to write about in other articles. As this affects not only us consumers but also medical and industrial and even sports.
3D printing has been around since the 1990’s. 3D are made of 3 dimensions of an object (width, depth and length). The printing process builds a dimensional object from a computer aided CAD(Computer Aided Design) model software. Successfully adding material layer by layer which is called additive manufacturing. Which is a process of joining material under control of a computer to create a three dimensional object. The materials are made up of liquid molecules and powder grains fused or a continuous filament of a thermoplastic material together. This type of printing can produce very complex shapes or geometries as long as the 3D printer has a digital 3D module of a CAD file.
Types of 3D Printing
There are four types of 3D printing (not only is there 3D printing but also 4D which I will also talk about in another article). The four types of 3D printing are FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling), SLA (Stereolithography Apparatus), Polyjet and Laser Sensory.
FDM or Fusion Deposition Modeling basically works as a printing hot glue gun. Creating layer after layer of 2D objects layered on top of each other until the product is complete. Using several layers of material. Materials could include ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), PC (Polycarbonate) or PEI (polyetherimide). The ABS material is commonly used to make LEGO’s and Whitewater Canoes. This process is the most popular due to it being the most inexpensive of the other three by a large margin.
SLA or Stereolithography Apparatus is used by shining an ultraviolet light over a pool of photoreactive resin. This process is far finer in details compared to the FDM process. This type of printing can print such things as a working gun (now given it easily breaks after a few rounds), guitars, camera lens, Shakuhachi Flute, 3D Figurines, the list goes on.
- Laser Sensory Printing is using a high power laser flashing over a bed of superfine powder fusing the powder together and then sweeping more powder over and repeating the steps until it has finished the process.
- The final type is the Polyjet Printing. It is basically a mix of FDM and SLA. It can create more detailed prototypes than the others that will allow them to convey final product aesthetics.
The 3D printing industry is making prosthetics which have to be custom made which means that they cannot make them in mass quantities. However, you can even design your own prosthetic like you would design a tattoo. It also has given mass production of tiny homes which allow for low income housing. They are also currently trying to mass produce Yachts. It can do such fine details as building a prosthetic heart from stem cells (it is still not FDA approved but still under testing at Tel Aviv University of Molecular Cell Biology and BioTechnology. Even Nike has its hands in the field of 3D printing.
So as you can see this 3D printing is something to look forward to. My question for them is that if you can build a 3D heart, houses, shoes and much more then, while in this pandemic makes you think, why can’t we use this technology to make the things that we need quickly. Such as PPE’s (Person Protection Equipment, Ventilators etc… for this Covid-19/Coronavirus pandemic)