In the prevailing testing times, with hospitals being filled with COVID infected patients and the severe lack of infrastructure and equipment becoming a severe issue, technology has emerged as the saviour.
Presenting itself as the solution for a few of these issues is the 3D printing technology. Various healthcare facilities have turned towards 3D printing for offering proper protective equipment for their staff, and the parts for fixing their ventilators. These 3D printers have allowed several ventilator and PPR components to be carried and adopted by hospitals.
Let’s learn about this technology in detail.
3D printing technology adopts computer-aided design (CAD) for creating three-dimensional objects via a layering approach. Also termed as additive manufacturing, this technology incorporates layering items such as composites, blio materials, plastics etc, for generating objects in different sizes, shapes, colors and severity.
3D printers adopt likewise approaches for traditional inkjet printers, although in 3D. Via a mix of precision tools and advanced software, it allows three-dimensional objects to be developed from scratch.
This printing technology is also highly befitting for creating complex, bespoke items, to make it fitting when it comes to rapid prototyping.
A variety of technology forms and materials are incorporated in 3D printing with the technology being adopted in almost every industry that we can consider. The technology has varied applications in a variety of industries.
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A couple of examples include consumer items (from eyewear, footwear, furniture to design), industrial items (from manufacturing tools, prototypes to functional end-use parts), dental items, prosthetics, architectural scale models & maquettes, reconstructing fossils, replicating ancient artefacts and reconstructing evidence in forensic pathology.
There are three types of 3D printing technology - sintering, melting, and stereolithography.
Sintering - This is a technology in which the material gets heated, although not till the condition of melting, for creating high resolution products. While metal powder is adopted to carry out direct metal laser sintering, the thermoplastic powders are adopted for selective laser sintering.
Melting - 3D printing approaches include powder bed fusion, electron beam melting and direct energy deposition. These adopt lasers or electron beams for printing objects by softening the materials collectively.
Stereolithography - Adopts photopolymerization for creating parts. This technology makes use of the proper source of light for interacting with the materials selectively for curing and solidifying the object’s cross section in delicate layers.
The main perk of 3D printing is primarily the speed at the rate of which the parts are generally produced in comparison to the traditional manufacturing approaches. The CAD model allows intricate designs to be uploaded and printed in a handful of hours.
3D printing also allows for rapid verification as well as the development of design concepts.
While earlier it used to take around days to weeks to gain a prototype, additive manufacturing allows the model to be prepared only in a couple of hours.
Although industrial additive manufacturing machines generally take more time for printing and post-processing a part, the capacity of producing functional end parts at low to mid volumes facilitates a massive time-saving perk in relation to traditional manufacturing approaches.
In case of small production, 3D printing is a highly efficient and useful manufacturing process. Conventional prototyping approaches such as CNC machining necessitate a high number of costly machines and have higher labor expenses since they call for well experienced machine operators and technicians for operating them.
This is in contrast with the 3D printing procedure in which merely a couple of machines and a lesser number of operators are required (in accordance with the system) for manufacturing a part. As a result, less waste material is generated as the part is developed from scratch rather than being carved from solid blocks.
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Yet another useful perk of 3D printing is that the given printer can develop anything fitting inside its build volume.
Through traditional manufacturing procedures, every fresh part or alteration in part design would need a fresh tool, mold or jig for being manufactured to develop a fresh part.
3D printing, as opposed to traditional approaches, permits the inclusion of multiple materials in a single object, allowing a range of colors, textures, and mechanical characteristics to be varied and coordinated.
3D printing permits all users, even the ones who have less computer-aided design experience, to edit designs in the way they prefer, developing unique, personalized fresh parts. This also implies that each offered design can be developed through an array of varied materials.
Advantages of 3D Printing Technology
Owing to the speed and lower expenses of 3D printing, the life cycles of products are minimised. Businesses can boost products, in turn enabling them to offer better items in a lesser time period.
3D printing enables the physical testimony of fresh products to consumers and investors, as a result, minimizing the risk of the data being mistaken or lacking amidst communication.
It also enables efficient testing of markets, gaining potential consumer feedback and investors on tangible items, while avoiding the risk of massive cost for prototyping.
The experience of feeling and touching the prototype of a product cannot be compared with looking at the product on the screen.
The physical prototype can be tested and if any flaws are discovered the computer aided design file can be adjusted and a fresh version can be printed by the following day.
The traditional manufacturing approaches can lead to poor designs and bad quality prototypes. In case of the involved elements not being blended properly, the end result can be spoiled, such as in case of subtractive or injection approaches, the quality is not often assured.
3D Printing allows for step by step assembling of the product or its part, in turn assuring for the boosting of the design and improved quality parts or items.
The conventional manufacturing procedures can lead to some of the parts ending up being inconsistent or damaged in terms of quality as compared to the remaining parts.
In case of 3D printing, the parts are printed in a sequence. Every sequential individual part can be overseen, permitting the errors to be tracked promptly, minimizing the overall number of disregarded parts and wasted components while boosting consistent quality gained from the generated parts.
3D printing enables businesses to minimize their manufacturing risks. It enables product designers to verify product prototypes prior to 3D printing technology and allows product designers to verify product prototypes prior to kickstarting on substantial manufacturing investments which can prove to be disastrous.
3D printing systems are far more accessible and can be adopted by a larger number of people as opposed to conventional manufacturing setups. As opposed to the great degree of expense involved in managing conventional manufacturing systems, 3D printing setups involve lesser cost.
Being almost entirely automated they also require minimal personnel for operating, supervising and handling the machine, ensuring that it remains more accessible in comparison to other manufacturing systems.
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Through 3D printing, less parts need to be outsourced for manufacturing. This implies less impact on the environment as lesser number of things are shipped around the globe and there is less requirement for operating and maintaining an energy-consuming factory.
3D printing generates quite a few waste materials for a single part and the materials adopted in 3D printing are usually recyclable.
Lesser strength in comparison to conventional manufacture: Many 3D printed parts are quite fragile as opposed to the conventional manufacturing approaches, apart from the ones created from metal which have effective mechanical characteristics. This is largely owing to the parts being constructed layer-by-layer, which highly minimizes its strength.
Elevated cost at high volume: Generally carrying out large production operations is more costly through 3D printing owing to less impact from economies of scale. As per estimates, when a direct comparison is made between similar parts, 3D printing is deduced to be less cost-effective in comparison with the parts being developed using conventional manufacturing approaches.
Limitations in accuracy: The precision of a printed part relies on the kind of machine and/or procedure adopted. A few desktop printers have lesser tolerances in comparison to other printers, implying that the final parts can be different in comparison to the designs. Although this can be mended through post-processing, it has to be ensured that 3D printed parts might not be precise every time.
Post-processing requirements: Most of the 3D printed parts need a certain kind of post-processing. This can be smoothing for developing a required finish or getting heat treatment for achieving particular material properties as well as final machining.
3D Printers have occupied a versatile role in each industry, apart from prototyping. Various 3D printers are charged with printing finished items. For instance, In the case of the healthcare industry, 3 printers have started getting adopted for creating parts to mend unhinged ventilators in the COVID19 outbreak.
Meanwhile, the construction industry has been adopting a futuristic printing method for printing out entire homes. Even schools across the world are adopting 3D printers to introduce hands-on learning to classrooms through the printing of robotic pieces and three-dimensional dinosaur bones. The adaptive and adjustable nature of 3D printing technology has made it the turning point for each industry that it enters.
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