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Material Science Behind 3D Printing

3D printing is a very fascinating technology in my opinion.This technology allows for the manufacturing of almost anything from a widevariety of materials. It is different from other forms of manufacturing, as itcan use designs that are geometrically independent. The layer by layer processallows for the production of almost any shape! I plan on highlighting some ofthe materials offered through this process, but first I’m going to cover what3D printing is.  3D printing is the layer by layer assembly of productsthrough the melting or fusion of materials through various methods. Thesemethods include curing liquid resins into solids, laser melting, fuseddeposition modeling, and ink jet methods. For the process to work, a 3D designwill have to be created on the computer by an artist or 3D engineer. Thisdesign will then be sent to a 3D printer, or the machine that will actuallymanufacture the product.  Whichever 3Dprinter being used will take the 3D design, and the computer within the printerwill acknowledge the dimensions, shapes, and thicknesses of each model. Themanufacturing process will then take place when the “print button” is pressed.Once started, the process is entirely automated. The machine will begincreating a physical model based off of the design, one layer at a time. Theselayers are typically very small; most machines offer layers that range from20-30 microns. The diameter of a human hair is around 20 microns. A 6 inch tall 3D print wouldlikely consist of over 800 miniature layers! This layer by layer process cancreate very intricate and organic shapes that other manufacturing methodscannot; it is also relatively affordable. The variety of materials to print inis pretty significant as well. Let me elaborate. When looking into 3D printing, the variety of materialchoices is very large. In fact, over 60 materials exist. These materials cancover a wide array of purposes, and each is different. Common materials includepolycarbonates and ABS plastics. ABS is probably one of the most popular, andthere are around 10 different colors to choose from. Precious metals even havea say in 3D printing; materials such as gold, sterling silver, fine silver, andplatinum exist through 3D printing. Industrial plastics like PA 2200 exist towithstand various chemicals and high temperatures. There is also a large marketfor 3D printing metals out there; these metals include: aluminum, cobaltchrome, titanium, Inconel, two forms of stainless steel, bio chrome, bronze,maraging steel, and nickel alloy. Materials exist for very specific purposes,let me elaborate. Some materials within the Objet tango family are veryflexible, and are used to prototype various products such as the rubber within cellphones. Vero materials can be used for “snap on” parts. There are a variety ofwax materials that hold exceptional detail for wax casting. Other resins andmaterials are used to hold great detail for character models and similarapplications. Some materials are fully translucent. Materials such as zp150hold a full array of colors for character models. Regardless of your prototyping needs, there is a materialthat exists for it! If you’re looking to have a part made for the internals ofa jet engine, 3D printing can save the day. If you need a precise charactermodel, 3D printing will save the day. Whether you’re making jewelry, or you’remaking a product, 3D printing will have a material that can get the job donewhen it finally comes down to prototyping! 

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