Questions and Answers
In the past years I have been playing and working with 3D Printers, I have had a lot of questions about everything that is related to making things out of plastics. A lot of these questions keep returning to my mail and then I thought it might be smart to collect them and share them with you in this article.
What is a 3D printer?
A 3D printer is a machine that is capable of building a three-dimensional object by adding material in layers on top of each other. This proces is called additive manufacturing.
Why should people use 3D printing to create something?
3D printing gives us the possibility to make something very quickly after it is designed in a computer using 3D modeling software. After a 3D printed parts is created, one is capable to test if it is really functional and if things have to be changed in the design. 3D printing is mostly used for rapid prototyping. If a part qualifies the test, it can be made in bigger quantities by making a mold of it or in small quantities on a 3D printer.
Are there other manufacturing processes that can be used to create a part?
With 3D printers you make something by adding material on top of each other in successive layers, one by one. This proces is called Additive Manufacturing.
You can also start with a piece of material that is to big and cut away material. To do this, you need a machine like a carver or a laser cutter. With these kind of machines you have much more spill material but parts are usually stronger and can be made of many different materials like wood, metal, stone, etc.
What kind of materials can be printed?
Most 3D printers are made to work with some sort of plastics. There are, however, a lot of different types of plastics and it’s possible to use plastics that have additives in them, like wood or metal particles to give the end result the look and feel of that added material.
Most filaments are made of PLA, ABS, PETG, NGEN or Nylon or PC. Most special filaments are PLA based with additives and are being printed like any normal PLA, sometimes demanding a nozzle that is made out of hardened steel because the special filament can be abrasive.
Also, there are some types of printers that use a resin to produce a print or that make prints out of metal powder that is melted together using selective laser sintering.
This website is mostly about desktop 3D printers that use spools of filament.
How strong are 3D printed parts?
Depending on the type of materials there are being used while printing, the parts will be stronger or weaker or more flexible or stiff. 3D printed parts are mostly strong enough for rapid prototyping, but sometimes also end products can be made with the 3D printing proces.
However, parts that are printed have their weak spots. If walls are thin, parts can easily break and because prints are made out of layers of plastic that are melted together, there is a risk of these layers separating from each other.
The rule is that molded parts of the same volume are usually stronger then their 3D printer counterparts but that said, 3D printed parts are easy to make and pure strength isn’t always needed.