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3D Printing - The 3 basic things you need to know

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by Startacus Admin

3D Printing - The 3 basic things you need to know...

Working on the basis that we all ought to know about 3D printing and many of us also, at this point may know very little about it in3D printing the first place, we thought we should create a mini “dummies” guide to 3D printing - covering the what’s, the how’s and the “how’s it gonna help me and my business” bit. So for the less technically adept amongst us, here is our rather basic guide -covering the 3 things you really need to know....

What is 3D printing?

Do you want the technical answer first and then the analogy?

Technical Answer - 3D printing creates three dimensional objects by building a layer, upon a layer upon a layer, until the product, replication, or object has been created in full. Whereas traditional modelling relies on a subtractive methods of removing material - cutting, sculpting, drilling, shaping etc, this is an additive process, the 3D printer simply creates the object layer by layer until the overall shape has been defined.

Analogy - Imagine you are building the shape of a house and you have a massive concrete hose. You are placed in a crane above the space where the house is going to be built and you simply add layer upon layer of concrete (very precisely and to dimension for this analogy to truly work) until the 3D house takes shape.

Okay for those of you finding it hard to visualise - here is a 2 mins video to help (N.B. We’re not responsible for the choice of the music in the video!)

3D Printing

How does 3D printing work?

It's tough not to get too technical with the process, so forgive us if this veers off from being a “fools’ guide” so to speak. Having said that we intend to keep the explanation as simple as possible - if nothing else for our own benefit.

So, it starts with the idea - the concept of what you intend to design and then print in 3D. If you don’t have a design you can’t have a model. Using, most probably CAD (Computer Aided Design software you (or your designer) will be able to design and create a to-scale design or blueprint of what you actually want.

The design can then be sent to the printer - split into digital layers - so then the printer is able to actually build the prototype one layer after another. The exciting part is that you can generally choose a variety of materials to print your 3D model in - ranging from plastic to paper metals etc.
Then when you click ‘print’ (or possibly something slightly more technical) the magic starts to happen and bingo, after the additive process you have your three dimensional prototype product / model.

How’s it gonna help me and my business?

Well, realistically, up until the last year or two - the opportunity for the everyday man or woman with a good idea for a product, invention, or design, to physicalize that idea, would have been tough. It would have been tough financially and tough to find access to mold, and build the prototype in the first place. The development of 3D printing and the increasing accessibility to 3D printers means that that previous barrier to entry for the many is slowly being eroded away. 3D printers aren’t a new invention, but as the cost to own or to have access to a 3D printer drops - the opportunity for the many widens. If you have a design for a new product, invention or design - the chances are that you will have a greater opportunity to make that virtual idea a physical reality.

Well, there you go, hopefully that helps...
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Published on: 28th May 2013

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