Are you curious about 3D printing but unsure how it works? Below we have a new animation we made for you and a video. We hope that by watching both you can understand how 3D printing works in just a minute and a half.
Here is a video of the same selective laser sintering process:
There are actually several 3D printing technologies and they all work very differently. What all technologies share is that they are additive so build up and object layer by layer. The video and animation both show you the Selective Laser Sintering process. Also called Laser Sintering or abbreviated as SLS this is a technology used by 3D printing machine manufacturers 3D Systems and EOS.
How it works (for people who learn from reading, as I do):
First you need a 3D file of your design. This file can come from 3D modeling tools such as Blender, AutoCAD, Rhino, Sketchup etc. This file is then given to the 3D printer software. This software, more often than not made by our company, ”slices” the file and sends it to the 3D printer.
1. The 3D printer spreads out a layer of fine powder.
2. A laser hardens the powder in that layer that comprises the bottom slice of your part.
3. A new layer of fine powder is spread out. The next slice of your part is hardened and joined to the first.
4. The rest of the powder remains loose. This supports the part as it is built up.
5. This is repeated many times until your part is built.
6. Then your part is lifted from the loose powder.
7. It is then sandblasted and finished by hand.
Selective laser sintering uses polyamide as a material. This is a fine “nylon like” powder. Final parts have a porous surface but you can make them smooth or paint them. The material is very strong and lets you produce details of 0.1mm. The material is biocompatible.
The top picture is a model of TomyTones by Tommy Rombouts. Polyamide feels like very fine sandpaper or corduroy when you touch it. The second image is of our Appear Lamp, a lamp that anyone can customize by putting text on it. Polyamide looks surprisingly good with lighting. The last image is of the lamp Parasite by Paradox, designed in Google Sektchup. Whereas it is true that 3D printing is more expensive than we would like the Appear would cost you $120 including shipping. If you are a 3D modeler you could design your own Paradox for around $280 including shipping. Both lamps come complete with stand, light and the 3D print of your design. So, yes it is not cheap. But, the fundamental thing here is that a unique lamp designed by you it is currently price competitive with certain mass produced lamps.
This is exactly why companies and designers are increasingly turning to 3D printing. We won’t be turning out Happy Meal toys any time soon. But, for things that have value to people and things that work better when they are made to an individual specification 3D printing will become more and more prevalent. If a product is valuable to us in some way we will 3D print it. If it has emotional worth because it is a unique gift or if it fits you better because it is made just for you it will increasingly be 3D printed.
There are a number of other 3D printing technologies such as Stereolithography, polyjet and Fused Deposition Modeling. We have videos showing you how they work here.