3D printers are the wave of the future. You’ll hear them referred to as “inks,” or “inks cartridges” — even “ink cartridges” (that’s just plain tacky). But if you’re not using one, you’re missing out on one of the best ways to go about creating professional graphics and designs. And by the time you do find yourself needing one of these devices, chances are you’ll be a pro that knows how to use it!
In the world of manufacturing and graphic arts, 3D Printers have become a critical tool for every manufacturer. They’re used in every type of industry, and for every different part of the process: cutting, sewing, riveting, soldering, casting, molding, painting, and so much more. And because they’re becoming such a common staple in so many different areas of manufacturing and design, there’s never been a better time to invest in one (or several). Here’s why.
3D printers allow for the printing of solid materials in three dimensions. When you’re looking at a piece of paper or plastic, you might be able to see the outline of it — the part that’s between the colored layer and the white surface. But if you were to print that out on a piece of foam, you might not be able to make out the depth of the material until you remove the blue or black mask that’s applied to it during production. With a 3D printer, however, you can create an exact replica of the original object in any color or material, right down to the smallest detail. That makes 3D printers ideal for applications where detail is paramount, and they’re usually the best choice for things like building models and full-scale model kits.
Because 3d printers enable designers and engineers to work with solid materials in their final product, they’re also becoming increasingly popular in many other industries. The most obvious use for 3d printers is in prototyping. Engineers and designers are discovering that it’s easy to prototype parts and accessories for new products without having to make the parts or accessories from scratch. Instead, they can design and then download patterns for each part, print them using a 3d desktop printer or machine, and use the digital data to construct prototypes that can be tested by several employees before going into production.
This type of additive technology is known as CAD printing. Using CAD printing, designers can lay out the most complex patterns and engineering models and then bring them into reality using specialized 3d printers. The most common way that companies use CAD printing in this way is with solid-state digital cameras that can produce 3d objects by compressing digital files of varying sizes onto chips that are printed using a special ink. There are also a number of computer programs that can handle this process. Once the chip is built, it can then be integrated with objects using electronics or plastic fabrication machines.
Other uses for 3d printing machines are to create flat surfaces like stairs, shower enclosures, tabletops, etc. Flat surface printers work by using numerous layers of material that are sprayed or deposited onto another surface, which is then shaped by a rolling drum. When finished, the desired flat surface will have several layers of either aluminum or plastic adhered to it. These types of printers often have solid-state photo sensors that will detect the top layer of any material being printed, and the different colors of the material will determine the pattern or style that will be imprinted onto the surface.
The final type of additive technologies used in the manufacturing of prototypes is rapid prototyping. Rapid prototyping uses computer-aided design (CAD) software to lay out sections of any physical product in physical configurations that are assembled together. A wide variety of computer applications are available to aid in the rapid prototyping process. As the final physical products are created and shipped, production molds and injection mold lines can then be used to manufacture samples of the final physical product, with each piece of the prototype made as an individual part of the final product.
Each of these three technologies is very effective and useful for rapid prototyping. The difference between any of these types of additive technologies and traditional 3d printing lies in the additive materials that are used to build the prototype layers. These layers can be plastic or metal and may be formed into many different shapes, sizes, thicknesses and textures. Because the production output is based on the formation of these individual components, instead of from a large, single solid piece, the result is a much smoother, more accurate end product. Because of the use of additive technology, the manufacturing time for each part of the prototype is dramatically reduced, and this leads to fewer wasted parts in the process.