Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is a manufacturing process that involves building three-dimensional objects by adding material layer by layer. It is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing, where the material is removed from a solid block to create a desired shape.
3D printing is a general term that encompasses a wide range of additive manufacturing technologies. It refers to the process of creating three-dimensional objects by adding material layer by layer. This includes various techniques like Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Digital Light Processing (DLP), PolyJet, Electron Beam Melting (EBM), and more. Each technique utilizes different materials, mechanisms, and processes to build objects with specific characteristics. 3D printing can involve different types of materials such as plastics, metals, ceramics, composites, and even biological materials.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) involves the extrusion of thermoplastic filaments through a heated nozzle. The filament is melted and deposited layer by layer to create the final object. FDM is known for its affordability, ease of use, and widespread availability. It is commonly used in desktop 3D printers and is suitable for prototyping, hobbyist projects, and low-cost production.
In additive manufacturing, the process typically involves the following steps:
- Designing the model: The first step is to create a 3D digital model of the object using computer-aided design (CAD) software. The model defines the geometry and specifications of the desired object.
- Slicing the model: The 3D model is sliced into thin cross-sectional layers using specialized software. Each layer represents a virtual 2D slice of the object.
- Selecting the material: Depending on the specific additive manufacturing technology being used, different types of materials can be utilized. These materials can include polymers, metals, ceramics, composites, and even biological materials like living cells.
- Printing the object: The additive manufacturing machine or printer reads the sliced model and starts building the object layer by layer. The specific technique used varies depending on the technology employed, such as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), or others.
- Layer deposition and curing: The material is deposited or solidified layer by layer according to the sliced model. The method of deposition can involve extrusion, photopolymerization, sintering, or other techniques, depending on the technology used.
- Post-processing: Once the printing is complete, the object may require post-processing steps such as removing support structures, cleaning, sanding, polishing, or surface treatments to achieve the desired final appearance and functionality.
3D printing technology supports a wide range of materials, allowing for versatility in creating various objects with different properties and applications.
The choice of material depends on the specific 3D printing technique being used and the desired characteristics of the final object. In consumer 3D printers thermoplastic filaments are generally used:
- PLA (Polylactic Acid): PLA is a biodegradable and environmentally friendly material derived from renewable resources such as cornstarch or sugarcane. It is popular for hobbyist and educational applications due to its ease of use and low toxicity.
- ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene): ABS is a strong and impact-resistant thermoplastic often used for functional prototypes, consumer goods, and industrial applications. It requires a heated print bed to minimize warping during printing.
- PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol): PETG is a durable and transparent material with good chemical resistance. It is commonly used for functional parts, containers, and mechanical components.
- Nylon: Nylon is a strong and flexible material that offers good mechanical properties. It is used for applications requiring toughness and durability, such as gears, functional prototypes, and industrial components.
- TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane): TPU is a flexible and elastic material used for applications requiring rubber-like properties, such as gaskets, seals, and wearable devices.
Creality Ender printers are a popular series of desktop 3D printers manufactured by Creality, a well-known brand in the 3D printing community. The Ender series is known for its affordability, reliability, and user-friendly design.
There will be a lot of articles on 3D printing but I want to start from a problem that I found with everyday products. Industrial designers come out with fantastic products however they typically ignore one main aspect. Have you ever noticed that we always talk about the legs of the products and rarely about their feet? You may think that products shouldn’t have feet however there exist some feet-like endings.
Several months ago I made a 3D CAD model of my feet due to a University project on SubD surfaces. So, it is time to give this model real life and give products real feet. I know, the mode shows a lot of defects but it isn’t simple to model with SubD relying only on some photos.
This project was really interesting due to the Subdivision Surfaces (Sub-D) integration inside Solidworks through the Power Surfacing plugin. It is a technique used in computer graphics and 3D modeling to create smooth, curved surfaces from a lower-resolution polygonal mesh. It involves dividing each polygon into smaller sub-faces and then iteratively refining the mesh by subdividing and smoothing the new vertices created.
Sub-D modeling is popular in industries such as animation, visual effects, and industrial design, as it allows artists to create organic and highly detailed surfaces with relatively low polygonal counts. It provides a flexible and intuitive way to shape complex forms. However, when it comes to using Sub-D modeling inside CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software, there are a few challenges:
- Precision: CAD modeling often requires precise measurements and accurate representation of physical objects. Sub-D models are based on smooth approximations and do not have inherent precision. It can be challenging to achieve the level of accuracy needed for engineering and manufacturing applications.
- Control: CAD modeling requires precise control over the geometry and topology of the model. Sub-D modeling, on the other hand, relies on a more freeform approach, where the control is distributed across the surface. This can make it difficult to achieve specific design intent or make modifications to the model with precision.
- Exporting and interoperability: CAD models need to be shared across different software and be compatible with other engineering tools. Sub-D models are often converted to polygonal meshes for exporting purposes, which can introduce potential issues such as increased file size, loss of information, and compatibility problems when transferring the model between different CAD applications.
While some CAD software offers built-in Sub-D modeling tools or workflows, they are typically not as robust or specialized as the tools available in dedicated 3D animation or modeling software. This makes it more challenging to leverage the full potential of Sub-D modeling techniques within a CAD environment. That being said, the integration of Sub-D modeling techniques and CAD software is an active area of development, and advancements are being made to bridge the gap between the two domains, allowing for more seamless and accurate use of Sub-D within CAD modeling workflows.
However, in order to 3D print the model I need an STL file and it could remove all the CAD problems here. STL, or stereolithography, is a file format commonly used in the field of 3D printing and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM). An STL file represents a three-dimensional object as a collection of triangular facets or polygons. It is a standard format for transferring 3D geometry data between different software applications and 3D printers.
PLA (Polylactic Acid) is a popular filament material used in 3D printing for several reasons. It is easy to use with a lower printing temperature compared to some other filaments, which means it requires less heat to melt and extrude. This makes it compatible with a wide range of 3D printers and reduces the risk of printing issues like nozzle clogging or warping. PLA is environmental friendliness because it is derived from renewable resources such as cornstarch or sugarcane, making it a biodegradable and eco-friendly option. It is a bio-based polymer that can be composted under the right conditions. PLA emits fewer harmful fumes during printing compared to some other filaments, making it a safer choice for indoor use.
And so I can solve this issue with industrial design products that are made without feet.
Only a main question remains, should I print another couple of feet for the remaining legs? Or should I add more clean support?