3D printing services have gained popularity in recent years because it’s simple technology with many applications. It is applied in various fields such as education, manufacturing & prototyping, construction, medicine, and art & jewelry.
Earlier 3D materials and printer models were pricey, but with advancements in technology, the cost of these materials and machines has gone down. As a result, 3D printing applications have become cost-effective and more accessible across different sectors.
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What are 3D printing services?
3D printing is also referred to as additive manufacturing, and 3D represents Three-Dimensional Printing. 3D printing is a process that makes solid objects from a digital design. It involves laying down thin material layers in either metal, powdered plastic, or liquid and then joining these layers together.
3D printing technology has helped many manufacturing companies to increase their productivity. In most cases, this technology is used to decrease the lead time in making prototypes of various devices or parts and the tooling required to develop them.
This mainly benefits small-scale manufacturers since it helps them decrease their production costs and reduce the time to market. 3D printing allows producers to make complex shapes with less material compared to subtractive manufacturing techniques like milling. It’s primarily used in stamping, hydro-forming, injection molding, among other methods.
Here are the types of 3D printing services:
SLA 3D printing
Stereolithography (SLA) is a 3D printing technology that creates an object by particularly curing the liquid resin layer-by-layer with the use of an ultraviolet (UV) laser beam. Since its invention, this SLA 3D printing has undergone various changes, and it’s now more affordable and accessible. It has helped many professionals cut down on outsourcing costs, maximize production processes, and iterate faster.
Manufacturers have created new SLA resin formulations with a wide range of thermal, mechanical, and optical properties to match industrial, engineering, and standard thermoplastics perfectly. SLA 3D printing helps to produce high-dimensional accuracy parts with intricate details. SLA rapid prototyping parts are suitable for visual prototypes since they have a smooth surface finish. The main advantage is that the materials are flexible, explicit, and moldable resins.
SLS 3D printing
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is a 3D technology that creates a solid structure using a high-power laser by sintering polymer powder particles on a 3D model. This technique has been the manufacturer’s and engineers’ choice for many years because it involves low cost per part, which translates to high productivity. It is suitable for different applications ranging from SLS rapid prototyping to custom, bridge, or small-batch manufacturing. Recently, SLS 3D printing has been readily accessible due to machinery, software, and material advancements. This has enabled many companies to use this technology that was used by high-tech industries only.
Manufacturers and engineers use SLS 3D printing because of its design freedom. It produces impossible intricate geometrics like moving parts, interlocking parts, interior channels’ parts, and other complex designs. SLS 3D printing is also known for producing long-lasting and functional prototypes. Besides, this technology’s versatility is vested in its proven, end-use materials. Nylon, together with its composites, is high-end, premium thermoplastics.
What is a 3D printing prototype?
3D printing prototyping is also called rapid prototyping and involves combining multiple material layers to make various parts. It is one of the cost-effective, easy, and quick ways to develop great products. The 3D printing prototype is ideal for design verification. It also helps prevent costly changes after the product is entirely manufactured by fixing design issues early in the production process. 3D printing prototyping is mainly used in architecture, jewelry design, and engineering to create various mechanical cases, parts, consumer products, props, and architectural models.
The benefits of 3D printing services
3D printing services provide a wide range of benefits than traditional manufacturing processes. These include:
Offers sturdy and lightweight parts
Most materials used in 3D printing services are plastic, though metals are still used. Plastic is highly preferred in some industries like aerospace and automotive since light-weight is ideal in delivering exceptional fuel efficiency. Besides, the technology also allows to create parts from tailored materials for specific properties like water repellence, higher strength, and heat resistance.
3D printing is one of the cost-effective manufacturing processes, making it ideal for small production. Traditional prototyping techniques such as CNC machining need costly machines and high labor costs because they require professional technicians and operators to operate them. 3D printing processes only require one or two machines and fewer technicians to produce a part. Plus, no additional tooling is needed; hence less waste of materials.
3D printing enables manufacturers and engineers to create more detailed and complex designs as compared to traditionally manufacturing methods. This is because many subtractive techniques have design restrictions, which is not the case with 3D printing. 3D printing enables users to edit designs in any way they like, allowing them to make unique and customized new parts. This means that different techniques can be produced using various materials.
Print on demand
Unlike traditional production methods, it does not require more space for stocking up inventories. This is because there is no need to print in bulk unless the need arises; thus, saving costs and space.
The virtual library is used to store the 3D design files printed using STL file or CAD as the 3D model, which means one can locate and print them when required.
Rapid prototypes are the main benefits of 3D printing. 3D printing allows parts to be manufactured within the shortest time possible since it fastens any prototyping process. Also, 3D printing is much cheaper and quicker than prototype machining in parts creation, enabling every part to be completed efficiently.
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The industrial applications of 3D printing services
3D printers change the entire manufacturing process, and many companies have adopted this manufacturing technology.
Here are some of the industrial applications of 3D printing services:
The 3D printing allows drone manufacturers to create a customized drone where every assembly part except electronic components can be 3D printed. The 3D technology enables the easy production of accessories such as cases, coverings, mounts, and boosters that facilitate proper drone storage. The additive manufacturing process helps to create lightweight and faster drones of different sizes at less cost.
Aerospace & defense
The Aerospace & defense industry has been benefited from 3D printing since they manufacture functional parts used in aircraft, which include wall panels, air ducts, and structural metal components etc. The primary advantage of using 3D printing in aerospace is weight reduction which significantly decreases payload, fuel consumption, and carbon dioxide emissions. Plus, it allows material efficiency, part consolidation, and low-volume production.
3D printing capabilities allow robotic parts to be manufactured quickly and straightforwardly. Factors such as reduced weight and customizability play a vital role in robot parts production like in sensor mounts and grippers, which require customization for various uses as they are costly to fabricate. Many robotics companies use Markforged 3D printers in designing and fabricating lightweight and complex parts like end-of-arm tooling at a lower cost.
Many automotive industries are using 3D printers in areas such as performance racing and motorsports. Automotive manufacturers print different parts using 3D printers. These include cradles, fixtures, and prototypes that are sturdy, stiff, and long-lasting. The key advantages are greater design flexibility, customization, and faster product development. Additionally 3D printing helps create intricate geometrics such as internal channels, fine mesh, and thin walls.
Medical & dental
3D printing is heavily used in the medical & dental industry, from bio-printing to prosthetics and medical devices. 3D printing applications in the medical sector are very versatile; for instance, CT scanning offers different patient-specific solutions like dental appliances and implants, other benefits enhanced medical devices and personalized healthcare.
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Some new frontiers with 3D printing technology
3D printing with LiDAR data
Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) is a remote sensing technique that utilizes pulsed laser light to measure accurate and precise surfaces. LiDAR provides a high level of accuracy for incredible results. LiDAR is used to create derivative products like slopes, hillsides, contours, and aspects.
3D printing and GIS
The 3D printing works hand in hand with Geographic Information System (GIS) to promote the visual experience of GIS for educational use. It creates an excellent platform for engaging students in basic GIS and geographic concepts such as mapping, projection, and topology.
Artificial intelligence applications in additive manufacturing (3D printing)
Machines solve different problems without human intervention depending on past experiences and data. When artificial intelligence is combined with 3D printing, it helps to enhance the 3D printer’s performance because it reduces the risk of error and facilitates automated manufacturing.
Some of the applications include:
Material range expansion
Artificial intelligence and 3D printing help expand compatible range materials, meeting the needs of various industrial sectors like aerospace that need high-temperature materials.
3D printing process optimization
Artificial intelligence helps to optimize the 3D printing process. For instance, you can analyze the object before you start the printing process. Additionally to predict the part quality and control the process to prevent printing errors, hence saving time.
3D printing workflow automation
Artificial intelligence allows 3D printing workflow automation, which involves different steps, from model creation to printing preparation to final printing. You can also automate material selection with AI because the software recommends the best materials to be used for excellent results.
3D printing has evolved and has a wide range of applications. It facilitates the production of high-end products at a cheaper cost in a faster and efficient way. 3D printing services helps to minimize material wastage, risk reduction, and it’s highly sustainable. The additive manufacturing process enables manufacturers and engineers to design more complex designs, which is not the case with traditional manufacturing methods. It is highly used in the medicine & dental, automotive, aerospace, education, and manufacturing industries.