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3D Printing – How Exactly Does It Work?

3D printing has actually taken the world by storm – a little. While not as fantastic as it was predicted to be, the technology is now behind a lot of the most efficient industrial processes used nowadays. So how exactly does it work?

First of all, you have to understand the general principle. All 3D printers today are additive when it comes to function. That means they work by adding more and more of a certain material until they have created the desired object.

Here are the more specific ways 3D printing works”

1. Sterolithogrpahy (SLA)

Stereolithography (SLA) is the king of all 3D printing technologies. SLA is a layer-based system that make use of a laser in solidifying parts of a liquid medium known as a photopolymer. A metal platform is submerged in the liquid and held away from the surface at a distance equivalent to a tenth of a millimeter or closer – the thickness of a single layer. The first layer is then solidified using an ultraviolet laser, and the process is repeated to add layers. This is not the most efficient way to print 3D objects, but it can work with many interesting materials, such as ceramics, for a cheap price.

Extrusion Deposition

The simplest form of 3D printing that is also the most compatible with mass users is called Extrusion Deposition. It is also the easiest type of 3D printing in terms of visualization. The process involves a robot nozzle that works like a hot glue gun, moving about and squeezing out a plastic building material with extremely high precision. The objective is to create one hardened layer above another.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

For a tougher variety of materials, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) has been the primary choice. Using this method, the building material in aerosol form will be spit out into space where the object should be built up. A laser blast of extreme precision combines the individual molecules of the aerosol (usually of metal) together until it grows to become the product it is intended to be. A more advanced version of this technology is known as Selective Laser Melting (SLM) which also works in more or less the same way. However, instead of using laser, SLM works by melting the particles of the building material completely, paving the way for the creation of a new metal that is sturdier and denser.

Carbon Fiber

Lastly, one of the most specialized types of 3D printing is known as carbon fiber, which is usually used to print high-strength, low-density parts. However, such specialized and composite building materials have not yet reached the elite end of the price spectrum. For just a little over $5,000, a 3D printing enthusiast can create various objects in carbon fiber parts which are often better than those which were printed in metal.
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