Knowledge: 10 Facts about 3D Printing

Car makers, fashion designers, and architects have long since relied on the numerous advantages of the 3D printing process. But there are always more applications added. Thus, the technology in medicine could soon provide a revolution. Read the ten most important facts about 3D printing here.

1. Who invented 3D printers? A little history!!

In the beginning, there was an idea of the British physicist and science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008). As early as 1964, this technology visionary had the idea for a 3D printer. Incidentally, Clarke, who is also known as the author of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” also predicted the Internet by the way.

The next step followed in 1972. In that year, the character Professor Bienlein invents the 3D photocopy machine in the comic “Tim and the shark lake”. At the time, this seemed to be an inspiring vision of the future.

It was not until 1980 that this abstract idea began to take shape. At that time, Charles “Chuck” Hull (* 1939), an American inventor and engineer, began building the first Stereolithography plant. It is no coincidence that Hull is today considered the “father of 3D printing” – and Stereolithography the “mother of all 3D printing processes”.
Concrete form finally took this project concrete shape, with the idea to solidify liquid plastic by UV light. Finally, on August 8, 1984, Hull filed a patent for stereolithography, which was released on March 11, 1986.

However, it would take a few years before the first Stereolithography (SLA) printer finally hit the market in 1987.
The general spread of 3D printing technologies in industrial production did not begin until around 2010. On the one hand, this circumstance can be explained by the increasing technical maturity of additive processes. In addition, on the other hand, the patents for the most important 3D printing processes expired during this time. Thus, the high patent fees were lost to the inventors.

2. How is the production going?

The three-dimensional workpieces are not poured into a mold during 3D printing, but built up computer-controlled layer by layer or fixed in their form.

3. What are the advantages of 3D printing?

Many prototypes or models can also be produced in other processes. However, the advantage of using 3D printing over drilling, cutting or turning is that there is significantly less material loss. Only the exact amount of material needed for the prototype, model or workpiece is consumed. The special tools previously required for the production of the desired shape are also unnecessary.

3D Printer Facts Infographic

3D Printing Facts in Infographic

4. What material is used for printing?

3D printing can use plastics, ceramics, metals, polymers, clay, synthetic resins and wood (through a mixture of resin and wood flour). But edible materials such as chocolate or dough can now also be processed by the printers. The choice of material is based on the use of the workpiece produced.

5. Which printing methods are available?

So far, there are four main printing processes: In Stereolithography, a plastic object is held in the desired shape by supporting substances and hardened layer by layer by a laser. Infusing deposition modeling, the molten build material is applied layer by layer until the final product is finished. If several printheads are used, this is called Polyjet Modeling.

The sintering process can be divided into Selective Laser Sintering (SLM) and Selective Laser Melting (SLM). In the former, powdery material is gradually adhered by means of a laser. The SLM fuses the powder. The process of electron beam melting relies on the exposure of metal powder through an electron beam, which gradually produces the desired shape.

6. Are combined printing methods possible?

Yes. Scientists in the New York of US have already been able to print a zinc-air battery from various starting materials. The combination of different materials in one printing process shortens the production time enormously since several production steps can be combined to one. In addition, the production of complex, z. B. intertwined, rotating or sliding parts possible. Materials that have only a supporting or filling function during printing are simply washed out or blown after printing.

7. What applications are there for 3D printing?

Initially, only prototypes and models were produced in the 3D printing process, and later also in very small numbers of required workpieces. Especially car makers rely on the so-called “rapid prototyping”, so the fast and relatively inexpensive way to produce prototypes. But designers and architects also use 3D printing to produce their models. The aircraft manufacturer “Boing” makes parts for the fighter aircraft F / A-18 in the 3D printing process and in Amsterdam even a steel bridge is printed on site by robots.

8. What does 3D printing have to do with medicine?

In dentistry, the 3D printing is helpful: Implants or dentures are thus easily printed accurately. And in another medical area, there are great hopes for the 3D printing process as well: prostheses could possibly soon become superfluous if replacement parts of the body are produced with 3D printers. Starting material for these is anatomically accurately arranged in 3D printing sugar molecules. Stem cells are attached to these, which they provide for the construction of an artificial body part or organ.

9. What does 3D printing have to do with architecture?

When Antoni Gaudí devised the colossal complex “Sagrada Familia”, a still unfinished basilica in Barcelona, he could not have imagined that the impressive building, whose construction began in 1882, would once resort to a process such as 3D printing. The architect’s imagined extremely complex forms of helicoids to rotational hyperboloid would be otherwise hardly feasible.

10. Will you print food soon?

That suppliers use edible materials for 3D printing is already a common thing. So you can, for example, lately produce gummy bears in your desired form. But will meat be printed soon? The US-based company “Modern Meadow” is currently working on it and claims to have already made a pork chop made of biotin. According to the company, this consists of different cell types. The printer provides a firm texture of the material before the “artisanal” matures in a bioreactor for edibility.

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