If you feel that the invention of smartphones, robots, and self-driving cars is amazing, then you would also enjoy the world of 3D printing. It’s baffling to think just how technology has evolved throughout the years. What was once a dream to fly to different countries can already be done via airplane, and travel to Mars is not already far from reality. From Thomas Edison’s lightbulb discovery to Dr. Albert Sabin’s polio vaccine invention, we have 3D printing nowadays.
What Is 3D Printing?
As the name suggests, 3D printing is the process used to make a three-dimensional physical model of a digital object. If you think you can only print ink on paper, think again. With 3D printing, you can print almost anything. The mechanism works by adding material a layer at a tie to produce cool 3D prints. That’s why 3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing.
Unlike other manufacturing technologies such as CNC machining or injection modelling, in 3D printing, no special tools are required. All you need is your 3D printer. The process begins with a digital 3D model of the object you want to print. The 3D printer will then “slice” the digital model by the printer’s software into a code readable by the machine.
What Materials Are Used in 3D Printing?
The materials used in printing varies on the object you want to design as well as the size and type of the printer. Your 3D printing design will serve as the backbone for the material used:
Plastics: The most common material used, nylon or polyamide, is used in powder form using desktop FDM printers. Plastic is a strong, flexible, and durable material. That’s why it’s proven to be reliable for 3D printing. Engineers and architects also want to use this because it can be colored before and after printing. This makes the physical object more true to life. In fact, clothing that is printed using 3D printers often uses this material.
Metals: Metals are usually used for industrial-grade 3D printing because it’s more durable than plastic. It’s also one of the strongest materials that can be used for sintering, melting, and electron-beam machining processes.
Paper: You would think that paper isn’t sturdy enough, but the standard A4 copier paper that we all know is the material used by some companies. 3D printer ideas made with paper are definitely cheaper, safe, and environmentally-friendly than other materials. They also usually require no post-processing.
Biomaterials: Biomaterials are recently experimented on for 3D printing to make the process more sustainable. Because it is abundant in nature, biomaterials such as collagen, chitosan, hyaluronic acid, alginate, etc. Each biomaterial has specific chemical properties that serve different mechanical uses. These biomaterials also need to be FDA approved to be used in the industry.
Ceramics: Newly introduced in 3D printing, ceramics are used because of their aesthetic, tactility, chemical resistance, and high strength-to-weight ratio.
Other polymers: These may be synthetic or natural.
What Are the Advantages and Limitations of 3D Printing?
3D printing is definitely a rapidly developing technology. While 3D printing comes with a lot of benefits, it also has its own set of limitations. Let’s take a look at the two below:
Low cost to start-up: 3D printing offers another way to manufacture various products without the hefty price of industrial equipment. You just need to buy the machine once, and you can already produce a variety of items. While the usual machines used for manufacturing serve only one purpose, 3D printers roll-out different products, depending on what your business is. The cost of useful 3D prints only depends on the amount of material used and does not require another specialized tooling.
Customization: You know how clothing usually comes in standardized sizes? That’s because, in traditional manufacturing, it’s cheaper to make things in bulk. With 3D printing, you can change the digital 3D model to create a custom part. In this way, each item can be customized to suit the customer’s needs.
Large range of materials: As listed above, 3D printing materials have numerous applications. Since each has a unique property, users can mix and match to produce a variety of designs.
Lower strength of materials: Generally, 3D printed parts have strong physical properties. However, they would still be less sturdy than traditionally-manufactured products. This is because 3D prints are built layer-by-layer and are thus weaker and more brittle than bulk material. For this reason, 3D printing objects are usually used for non-critical applications than, say, demanding industries like aerospace and building construction.
Limited accuracy: While there is a lower cost to 3D printing customization, the calibration of the machines is not as intricate as traditional ones. If you want to stick to the technology, however, then 3D printer ideas that offer greater accuracy include industrial material jetting and SLA printers.
Less cost-friendly for bulk production: If you’re planning to produce a variety of products quickly, then 3D printing is the way to go. But if you’re planning to manufacture a lot of the same products at a limited timeframe, then the traditional way is still recommended.
20 3D Printing Ideas to Try
If you’re wondering what 3D printing objects are out there, here are 20 beautiful and useful 3D prints.
With the rise of Bluetooth of earphones, so is the casing used to protect it. These, like smartphone cases, are usually silicone or rubber material so as to absorb the shock if you do accidentally drop them.
Earphone Cord Organizer
For those who haven’t switched to wireless listening, you know how it’s a pain in the neck to want to listen to music only to find out that your earphone wires are tangled up, again. 3D printers can produce organizers that will make your favorite pair of earphones well kept and easy to use.
There’s nothing more annoying in the morning when you’re rushing out the door only to not be able to find your keys. By having a 3D printed key holder, you would never have to worry about this problem ever again.
We all love an organized desk. It’s hard to concentrate when there is clutter all around, and that includes your pens and pencils. 3D printing can generate unique and functional pen holders that can make work more productive and enjoyable.
Since most people work remotely these days, having a cellphone stand is a must. This allows you to look at messages with ease as you work on other things on your laptop or on your desk.
Yes, you heard that right. For plant lovers out there, you can have a 3D-printed home for your favorite succulents and cacti. Skip the traditional clay pots and opt for cooler planters to make your home garden more attractive.
For kitchenware fanatics, this one’s for you. One of the cool things you can print is small cutlery for personal use. Not only are they more eco-friendly than plastic ones, but they can also be a lot cuter and portable too.
To add to your kitchenware, why not produce coasters for your glasses and mugs as well? Skip the flimsy and fragile coasters for 3D printed ones.
The good thing about 3D printing is that you can really max out your creativity. The specialized machinery can keep your untamed locks at bay and be salon-ready everyday.
Add a 3D printed bookmark to your collection. What’s another incentive to read your favorite books?
For those in the tech or creative industry, having a 3D printed business card speaks for itself. Instead of a traditional cardboard-made card, handing out something that screams modern tech gives you that extra boost of creativity.
Remember when fidget spinners are all the rage? Well, add this to one of the numerous cool 3D prints to your arsenal and keep boredom at bay.
Fashion need not be boring because you can now print your own clothing. If you’re someone who wants to switch things up every now and then and experiment with different clothing styles, then a 3D printing machine may be a good investment.
These include crowns, bridges, caps, dentures, and even orthopedic molds that are used to evaluate and design your braces.
Did those ideas inspire you? These are only some of the things you can do with a 3D printer. If you’re starting out in the industry, a good way to make a name for yourself is to have a personal website to showcase your cool 3D prints.
We hope we were able to shed some light into the expansive and ever-growing world of 3D printing for you. If you still have some questions regarding how to start your own website and showcase your craft, don’t hesitate to chat with any one of our happiness officers.