What is 3D Printing?

3D Printing - also known as additive manufacturing - has been quoted to be a much larger technological advancement than the internet. 3D printing is an advanced digital manufacturing technology that covers a host of processes and technologies for the production of parts and products in various materials. Production is carried out layer by layer in an additive process which is in contrast to traditional methods of production involving subtractive methods or moulding/casting processes.

3D Printing is the process of making a physical three dimensional object from a digital CAD model. The objects can be designed and manipulated in their digital format and the manufacturing is done by depositing the material on a build platform one layer at a time. These layers fuse together to form the final object.

Traditional manufacturing techniques such machining, casting, forming and moulding are all time consuming and rely on subtractive manufacturing. These technologies demand that the end product or tools for casting and moulding are made from a large block of material which can result in up to 90% of material being wasted. Traditional manufacturing also imposes problems such as expensive tooling and assembly of complex parts.

3D printing however, creates objects directly by adding material layer by layer in a variety of ways depending on the technology used.

This technology acts as an enabler that drives innovation and design freedom. It is a tool-less process that reduces costs and lead times. Parts can be designed specifically to avoid assembly and can be made lighter and stronger using lesser material than traditional manufacturing. Complex and intricate design features can be printed without any difficulty.

In recent years 3D printing has gone beyond multinational corporations and has become more accessible to small companies and individuals. Commercial desktop printers can be acquired by anyone as these printers cost as low as Rs.10,000/-

How Does 3D Printing Work?

1. A blueprint of a 3D object is created using computer modeling software.

2. Using a process called slicing, the model is divided up into thousands of horizontal layers. The size, orientation, density and other such factors are selected.

3. The object is then built by adding or ‘printing’ one layer on top of another by melting the raw material and depositing it on the print platform as specified by the design.

4. The 3D printed model undergoes finishing touches such as sanding, painting, polishing or other such techniques which are typically done by hand.