3D printers, or additive printers, are devices that use the layering method to create a physical object from a digital model. These objects can be of almost any shape and geometry. In fact, 3D printers are peripheral devices that are a type of industrial robot. However, in our time they are used not only in production, but also at home. We’ll talk about how to choose a 3D printer and what to use it for today.
For the first time, 3D printing technology was not thought of, of course, last year or even decades, although it is generally accepted that this is one of the main achievements of the 21st century. In fact, the history of 3D printers dates back to 1948, when the American engineer Charles Hull developed the technology of layer-by-layer growing of physical three-dimensional objects from a photopolymerizable composition. It is called Stereolithography (stereolithography). Only in 1986, Hull managed to get a patent for his invention. He founded 3D Systems, and in 1987, the world saw the first ever 3D printer using STL technology. True, then the device was called "installation for stereolithography."
In the 80s, other three-dimensional printing technologies also began to develop. In 1985, Mikhail Feigen proposed forming volumetric models layer by layer from sheet material (film, polyester, plastic, paper), fastening the layers together using a heated roller - LOM technology. In 1986, Karl Descartes invented layer-by-layer sintering of powder material (powder polymers, metals, casting wax, nylon) with a laser beam - the SLS selective laser sintering method. In 1987, the Israeli company Cubital developed SGS layer-by-layer sealing technology. However, it requires the use of expensive, toxic and fairly rare polymers. And finally, in 1988, Scott Kramp described the method of layer-by-layer extruded melt pouring (FDM). Printers using this technology print a molten filament of a substance (plastic, metal, etc.).
Ultimately, the most widely used were stereolithography (SLA - a modern variation of STL) and the FDM method. Until 1995, three-dimensional printing was used only in industry, until students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Jim Bredt and Tim Anderson introduced the technology of layer-by-layer synthesis of material in the housing of a conventional desktop printer. This was the start for the new company Z Corporation, which has long been a leader in the field of household volumetric printing. Then, in the early 2000s, 3D Systems also launched its first “home” 3D printer. After that, these devices began to actively penetrate into everyday life.
Areas of use
Despite the fact that 3D printers began to be widely used only recently, they quickly broke into almost all spheres of human life. As you already understood, these devices were developed for industrial purposes and are still actively used in various industries. They are used for the rapid manufacture of prototype models, to test them before launching the main products, and to create finished parts in small-scale production. Using three-dimensional printing make molds for foundry. 3D printers print complex, massive, durable, and inexpensive designs. But after the technology went beyond industrial, they found application wherever they could. Last year, we talked about the fact that 3D printers actually capture the world
In 2010, scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology first printed edible products. Cornucopia 3D printer, which means “cornucopia,” was able to print a three-dimensional model of food. The Edible Growth printer, which prints organic snacks, was later introduced. In 2011, with the help of three-dimensional printing, scientists for the first time were able to recreate the human internal organ from stem cells. Over the next 4 years, we learned how to print external organs (nose, ears) from cartilaginous tissue, fragments of the skeleton and skull on 3D printers. And this year, the American Food and Drug Administration (Food and Drug Administration) approved a medicine for controlling seizures in epilepsy. In 2013, Defense Distributed printed a fully functional pistol. Now in many countries there are already laws prohibiting the manufacture and use of weapons that are created on 3D printers.
In addition, with the help of giant 3D printers, dirt and natural fibers (wool, for example), they propose to solve the problem of housing in the most remote and poor corners of the planet. A working prototype of such a device was presented by the Italian company WASP last year. There are also printers capable of printing from sand. The artist Marcus Kaiser personally assembled a device that uses the energy of the sun to create glass objects. Another printer called D-Shape, which uses sand and an inorganic compound for printing, was developed by Italian robotics Enrico Dini. Experts compare the strength of the material with reinforced concrete. By the way, artists or sculptors can use special 3D pens to create their own masterpieces. Meanwhile, scientists suggest using 3D printers in a space program. One such device has already been successfully delivered to the ISS to print various parts, tools and other things that astronauts may need. In the future, it is planned to use 3D printing technology for the construction of lunar bases and the exploration of Mars.
So, as you can see, 3D printers are used in many industries - and quite successfully. Of course, these devices were used in everyday life to create various trifles, souvenirs, parts, etc. However, now most 3D printers are expensive. Therefore, if you want to buy yourself one such house, you must clearly understand how and why it will be used.
How to choose a 3D printer
To begin with, it is worth noting that now the prices for desktop 3D printers vary within a very wide range: from 30 thousand to several million rubles. But in fact, this indicator is far from the main one in our choice. Of course, cheaper printers wear out a little faster and have a slightly larger percentage of rejects. But first you need to decide what you will print. If you need a 3D printer for serious work and manufacturing any high-quality models, or you want to print jewelry, then you need to look for devices that use SLA technology. If you just have fun and print simple figures, toys, etc., then you need a cheaper FDM printer.
Next, you should pay attention to the materials that a 3D printer can print. If strength of the finished product is important to you (resistance to shock, friction, aggressive environments), then you need to choose ABS plastic. If not, then environmentally friendly PLA plastic is suitable. Laywood material is made from recycled wood and a binder polymer, and is suitable for wood-like products. PVA plastic dissolves in hot water and can be used to print washable inserts, for example. A very strong and at the same time lightweight material, which is used in medicine and foundry, is Nylon. For the production of transparent products, cups, plates, T-Glase material is suitable. Architects can use Laybrick material to create plausible models, which depending on temperature can be smooth, rough, etc. Photopolymers for SLA printing also have different properties. There are resins that, when hardened, become smooth, strong, moisture resistant, and quite durable. There are special elastic polymers that resemble rubber in properties. The final product of such a material will have good elasticity and impact resistance.
Also important issues are the size of the print area and the number of extruders. In the first case, the choice is between speed / convenience and quality. That is, 3D printers with a large area can print large objects, but on printers with a small area, the quality is noticeably higher. Therefore, you can print large models in parts, and then glue them yourself. In the second case, you choose between again quality (one extruder) and the possibility of multi-colored printing or the use of 2 materials at the same time (more than one extruder). Single-extruder machines have a lower percentage of rejects, but for multi-extruder printers, when one machine fails, you can continue to use workers.
And if you are afraid that you will have nothing to print, because you do not know how to create 3D models, then this is in vain. Now the Internet is full of sites with mountains of free layouts, ready to print. And if you read some basic lessons, then such models can even be edited independently. Therefore, if you know exactly what you are going to print on your 3D printer, then you can safely go to any online store (and there are many of these on Runet) and buy the most suitable device for you.
This, perhaps, will end this article, which is a continuation of the new cycle, which began in the topic about modular smartphones
. If you want to read about any interesting devices or technologies that are gradually breaking into our lives - write in the comments, and perhaps the next article will be on your topic.