This is the action or process of making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many thin layers in succession. 3D printing is any of various printing processes in which material is joined or solidified under computer control to produce or create a three – dimensional object with materials like liquid molecules and powdered grains fused together. It is an additive manufacturing process that creates a physical object from a digital design used for rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing. All 3D printing technologies and materials operate under one and the same principle being; a digital model is turned into a solid three-dimensional physical object by adding material layer by layer.
3D printing is an obviously rapidly developing technology that is fast gaining ground in firms outside Africa and which should be adopted in Africa.
THE 3D PRINTING PROCESSES
3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. There are different processes, equipments and materials used in the synthesis of a three dimensional object. The few main differences among these processes lie in the technologies and the materials used to achieve the process.
The various processes include:
- Light Polymerization
- Continuous liquid interface production
- Powder bed
HOW IT WORKS
Every 3D print starts as a digital 3D design file – like a blueprint – for a physical object. Trying to print without a design file is like trying to print a document on a sheet of paper without a text file. This design file is sliced into thin layers which are then sent to the 3D printer.
From here on the printing process varies by technology, starting from desktop printers that melt a plastic material and lay it down onto a print platform to large industrial machines that use a laser to selectively melt metal powder at high temperatures. The printing can take hours to complete depending on the size, and the printed objects are often post-processed to reach the desired finish.
Available materials also vary by printer type, ranging from plastics to rubber, sandstone, metals and alloys – with more and more materials appearing on the market every year.
PROS OF 3D PRINTING
As a fast growing technology which is seriously gaining ground all over the country, there are advantages to be gained from 3D printing, these are;
- It is used to customize any and every item
- It is used to create complex designs
- There are no need for tools and moulds
- It has a lower cost
- It has high speed and ease of prototyping
- It is faster and less risky to route to the market
CONS OF 3D PRINTING
The disadvantages of 3D printing include;
- It has lower precision
- It has less material choices and colour finishes
- It has limited strength and endurance
- It has higher cost for large production runs