Imagine creating a physical object from a digital design. 3D printing service does the same. It is a form of rapid prototyping that works on the basic principle of turning a digital model into a solid 3D physical object. The digital model is split into thin layers in the computer software, and the actual material is added layer by layer in the machine until we get the desired product. The printing time varies according to the object’s size; it can take hours. The final product often requires post-print processing to acquire the desired finish.
A 3D printing service involves printers, lasers, industrial machines, and solid materials to create an object. The use of 3D printing is rapidly increasing in multiple domains. This technology has its own set of benefits and a few limitations.
Which industries are using 3D printing services?
One of the fascinating things about 3D printing is its relevance to every field. From its use in building construction to car manufacturing, aviation to aerospace, paleontology to archeology, furniture to prosthetics, almost every specialty uses 3D printing technology.
Typical applications of 3D printing technology include:
- Reconstruction of fossils in paleontology
- Construction of automobile parts
- Reconstruction of bones and other body parts for forensic purposes
- Making of fuel nozzles for aircraft
- Scale models for architectures
- Construction of prostheses, such as hearing aids, prosthetic hands, and dental crowns
- Customization of consumer goods, such as shoes and headphones
- Making props for use in movies
Advantages of 3D printing service
- Easily creates complex design
- Customized items
- Less wastage of material
- No need for specialized molds and other tools
- Fast and cheap method for prototyping
Disadvantages of 3D printing service
- Limited strength and durability in comparison to traditional manufacturing processes
- Limited choice of material, colors, and finish
- Lower precision
Different 3D printing technologies
Although the basic principle in all 3D printing technologies is the same, i.e., creating objects from 3D digital files, each technology uses a different method to create an end product. Some of the 3D printing technologies are mentioned below.
- Fused Deposition Modeling
- Selective Laser Sintering
- Stereolithography and Digital Light Processing
- Binder Jetting
- Material Jetting (MultiJet and PolyJet Modeling)
- Metal Printing (Electron Beam Melting and Selective Laser Melting)
Common materials used for 3D printing
The choice of material largely depends on the purpose and use of the desired end product. The material type also relies on the printer type. Commonly used materials are as follows:
- Rigid plastic
- High detail resin
- SLS nylon
- Fiber-reinforced nylon
- Rigid opaque plastic
- Rubber-like plastic
- Transparent plastic
- Industrial metal
A prototype is an early scale model of a product built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from.
Designers and engineers commonly use prototypes to see how their ideas work in practice. It helps designers understand what aspects of their product work and which ones fail to translate into action. Companies can show prototypes to executives and investors to gain funding for their projects.
Prototypes are crucial in creating a new product or updating an existing one. They are required to be built in error-free and less laborious ways, bringing in rapid prototyping.
Rapid prototyping is used to fabricate scale models with the help of 3D computer-aided design data. Construction of the model usually takes place using three main choices, namely
- 3D printing
- CNC machining
- Injection molding
CNC machines and injection molding techniques have long been used to create prototypes, but they are expensive and time-consuming. Rapid prototyping with 3D printing was introduced to avoid these drawbacks.
Rapid Prototyping: Benefits
Manufacturers now use 3D printing for rapid prototyping as it is less costly and can create prototypes within days instead of weeks. There is no need for multiple geometric molds to create different shapes. The same equipment can produce various forms and designs, cutting back on specialized tools and setup costs. In fact, with in-house prototyping, outsourcing costs are also reduced.
For example, in the past, Nike spent thousands of dollars and had to wait for weeks before they could get the prototypes of running cleats. With the introduction of rapid prototyping, Nike now spends fewer dollars and gets their scale models within days.
Prototypes are not always the best models and requirements to pass through an iterative process of multiple changes to reach the desired goal. Using rapid prototyping, designers can create changes to their prototypes and get more realistic prototypes faster than ever before.
Rapid prototyping improves communications and feedback, which helps improve the final product design and prevents manufacturers from creating something unnecessary.
Most models require testing and multiple tweaks in the design to reach their final shape. Rapid prototyping makes the trial-and-error approach easy. A thorough evaluation of initial ideas is made possible, and the prototype can be reprinted on the same day if changes are required. Designers can see the effect and feel of the design minimizing flaws there and then.
Although new materials are being introduced to 3D printing services, CNC machines and injection molding still offer a greater variety of material choices. A good option for choosing between rapid prototyping technologies is the number of parts to be made; if one needs a few hundred parts, 3D printing is a better option. However, the need for thousands of parts is better met using other methods. Moreover, if you are developing mold and expect to go through several revisions before deciding on a final tool, 3D printing is a comparatively economical choice. Once the tool is finalized, injection molding or machining may be cost-effective.
Rapid prototyping using a 3D printing service is a cost-effective way to convert great ideas into perfect products. Any company looking to model their plans and put them to the test can make use of this technology. Rapid prototyping will help evaluate whether an idea has potential. If proven so, the same prototype can be used to simulate the mass production of a product.