How can 3D printing help me?
Because its applications are so vast, 3D printing as a Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) option has become a feasible, time-cutting and cost-saving alternative to many businesses around the world as the technology becomes more available and at a lower cost in tandem with Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software, which is used for 3D modeling in so many fields like manufacturing, engineering, architecture, jewelry, dentistry, art, design, education and so much more.
For instance, rather than contract a factory just to make prototypes, many companies
digitally model them in CAD software and 3D print them in-house for engineering or manufacturing. Jewellers can now model jewelry designs via CAD, 3D print them with wax castable material, and cast in precious metals, compared to traditional methods of hand sculpting which can have very human limitations. Such modern processes are similarly used in art and scultpure, where artists digitally sculpt their works and 3D print them for either limted runs or casting for mass production. In the field of dentistry, labs and even clinics model
patients' teeth via dental CAD software after digitally acquiring them with intraoral scanners, and print these models on-site for aligners, dentures, crowns and more.
The boundaries are endless with CAD/CAM. What do you think you can do with this technology?
How are FDM printers suitable for me?
When you need to do rapid prototyping, experiments, or intend to make strong and durable low-cost models where extreme precision and near perfect surface finish fresh off the build plate are not important, go with FDM.
M1 is a mini FDM printer suitable for small home projects and prints with non-toxic and environamentally-friendly PLA, while the
K5 PLUS is a fully-featured professional desktop printer that prints with a wide variety of 3rd party materials, including exotic ones like flexible, wood and even metallic filament!
Bolt PRO is an industrial printer with a huge build volume and is also very affordable for its class and function, making it the de-facto FDM fabrication solution for businesses and even factories, as evidenced by its utilization by leading manufacturers like Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Volkswagen, Fujitsu, Crocs, and many more.
How is the 3D printing process like?
Just like we need digital documents or photos to print on paper, digital 3D models are required to 3D print with material. 3D modeling is a specialized field which anyone can get into easily but is difficult to master.
Blender is a free digital modeling software with online
tutorials to help you learn. If you have yet to have some background in 3D modeling or digital sculpting, there are huge libraries featuring thousands of 3D objects in
Pinshape for you to download, absolutely free!
All 3D printers come with slicing software called slicers, which can import
3D objects typically in Standard Tessellation Language (STL) or Object File (OBJ) formats. Slicers allow users to orientate and resize their 3D models and add supports for printing.
Once your models are set for printing, the slicing software will use algorithms to slice the models into hundreds to thousands of layers, depending on the model height and layer resolution. The sliced model is saved as a set of instructions called G-code for printers to read and print.
Once the models are printed, they can be removed from the build platform and require post-processing. For FDM prints, this involves removing any supports and if required, smoothing the surfaces of prints. SLA prints require more post-processing; apart from removing any supports, they are required to be washed in isopropyl alcohol and post-cured in UV chambers.
How are SLA printers suitable for me?
When you require precision, dimensional accuracy, extremely intricate details and a super smooth finish, or need to make molds for casting objects such as jewellery, dental molds or miniatures, go with SLA.
EPAX printers are affordable professional SLA printers with extremely high precision, and can even print with specialist materials like flexible and porcelain resins, making them perfect for engineering, prototyping, manufacturing, dentistry, jewelry, design and more.
Please do note that models printed with these printers are covered in sticky resin that has to be removed in a bath of isopropyl alcohol. This is why you need rubber gloves to protect your fingers from the resin and alcohol. Your prints would also require post-curing with either sunlight, or a post-curing UV LED chamber like the
DX Cure Pro.