3D printing is an additive process, the opposite of subtractive manufacturing processes. 3D printing involves adding layers of material on top of each other until the desired design is achieved, as compared to subtractive manufacturing, where the final product is cut from a block of material.
The 3D printing process applies different technologies, including:
- Melting – Printers use the melting technique with electric arcs, lasers, or electron beams to print objects by melting the materials and sticking them together through direct energy deposition, electron beam melting, and powder bed fusion.
- Stereolithography – The technology uses photopolymerization to interact with the material causing melting and solidification in thin layers. The layers form the cross-section of the finished product.
- Sintering – The process includes heating the material, but not reaching the melting level, to create high-resolution items.
Manufacturers offering SLA printing services create prototypes, concept models, and complex parts with intricate designs through different processes. General principles has categorized 3D processes into seven main categories, including:
- Binder jetting
- Sheet lamination
- Material extrusion
- VAT polymerization
- Powder bed fusion
- Direct energy deposition
- Material jetting
Each category of the 3D printing process has its strengths and weaknesses; hence you have to understand both ideas before deciding which to adopt for your products.
Advantages of 3D Printing
3D printing produces bespoke and cost-effective products with intricate geometric designs. The extra features come at no extra cost while the full price of production goes down as very little material is lost in the process compared to subtractive production methods.
Producing items through 3D printing requires no molds hence reducing the production price. The production price of 3D items is directly related to the time of production, labor, amount of material used and the post-production processes.
Prototyping is simplified and takes considerably less amount of time as compared to traditional production. The technology you base your productions on allows small batches and in-house production without relying on outsourced supply chains. The variety of 3D printers in the market range from simple small-scale for personal production to complex machines for large commercial production.
Items produced through 3D printing are customizable because the process is guided by computer-aided designs (CAD). Manufacturers have the liberty to determine the material to use for the production of specifically designed pieces with specific properties. You can alter the traditional plastics and metals material with additives to make the products more efficient through specs such as water repellence, high heat resistance, or higher strengths for specific applications.
Disadvantages of 3D Printing
While 3D printing brings a lot of economic advantages, there might be mechanical problems in the products obtained through 3D printing. Some parts of a finished 3D-printed item might be brittle and weak due to the stacking up of component layers. Stacking material layers weakens the final product’s strength by 10-50%.
The accuracy attained on the finished product heavily relies on the type of 3D printer and process used for its production. Certain printers have low design tolerance, which may affect the final product. Although you can rectify the accuracy defects in the post-production stage, the machines’ parts might be different, causing a disparity.
Items produced through 3D printing need to go through the post-production process to produce the final product. The post-production process might require resources, increasing the production cost while also risking the quality and accuracy of the finished product.
Sculpteo’s 3D Printing Solutions
Sculpteo has the solution to all your 3D printing problems. Get all the parts you need to kick-start your project through rapid prototyping, contract manufacturing partners, and enjoy fast services through the Sculpteo on-demand manufacturing services. Contact Sculpteo today and push your design and production limits today.