We recently purchased a 3D printer. What is 3D printing and what is it used for?
3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital CAD file.
The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material (plastics in our case) until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.
3D printing allows ideas to develop faster. Being able to 3D print a concept the same day it was designed shrinks a development process from what might have been months to a matter of days.
Prototyping injection molding tools and production runs are expensive investments. The 3D printing process allows the creation of parts and/or tools through additive manufacturing at rates much lower than traditional machining.
Being able to verify a design before investing in an expensive molding tool is worth its weight in 3D printed plastic. Printing a production-ready prototype builds confidence before making these large investments. It is far cheaper to 3D print a test prototype then to redesign or alter an existing mold.
Testing ideas quickly and discovering what doesn’t work accelerates discovery leading to an ideal solution. 3D printing allows a product developer to make breakthroughs at early stages that are relatively inexpensive leading to better products and less expensive dead-ends.