Three-dimensional printer

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A Three-dimensional printer is a device which enables users to print a solid 3D object using a variety of materials. These are used in private, educational, manufacturing, medical, and other venues. To use this type of printer a user creates a 3D model on a computer, then sends the job to the printer. The printer then constructs the object on a mat, by moving the nozzle (or print head) on a dual-axis assembly and releasing small amounts of the material where it is needed. In general, these printers are very slow in comparison to 2D printers, but the technology is still evolving and improving significantly.

Uses

The versatility of these devices makes them useful in a wide variety of ways. Hobbyists find various uses for these, but many professional fields are beginning to adopt them. Some manufacturers have found these quite useful because they are able to create specialized components, which would be expensive to acquire in other ways. Other industries are beginning to use them for the novelty of the process and product. For example, The Hershey Company is beginning the process of making their kisses using 3D printers.[1]
Perhaps one of the more bazaar but ingenious applications of this technology is the production of human body parts. Medical researchers have found that they can use live tissue from a patient to create an artificial organ, which their immune system is very unlikely to reject, since it is composed of their own cells. Although not a common practice, this seems to offer much safer organ replacement which is available almost any time one is needed.

Materials

Depending on the purpose and design of the 3D printer, it can use a wide variety of materials. The material is sold as filament sized at either 1.75mm or 3mm, which is fed into the nozzle, melted (when needed), and placed. These include:

Standard materials

  • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)
  • PLA (Polylactic Acid)
  • Polylactic Acid
  • Nylon (Polyamide)
  • NylonX (Polyamide)

Flexible materials

  • TPE
  • PCTPE (Plasticized Copolyamide TPE)
  • Soft PLA (Polylactic Acid)
  • TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane)
  • PET (PolyEthylene Terephthalate)[2]
  • PETT (PolyEthylene coTrimethylene Terephthalate)[3]

Composite materials

Composite materials are blends of multiple components. Many are designed to mimic a material, even though that material is mixed with a thermoplastic (meltable) material. This enables creators to generate things which appear to be constructed of wood, metal, stone, or other unusual substances. These composites include:

  • LAYBRICK
  • Wood Composite
  • "Sandstone" (PLA with chalk powder)[4]
  • Conductive (modified PLA for low voltage, low current circuitry)
  • LayCeramic
  • Carbon Fiber Reinforced PLA
  • Metal infused PLA (ColorFabb BrassFill, BronzeFill, and CopperFill)
  • Proto Pasta Stainless Steel/ColorFabb SteelFill (Steel fibers blended with plastic)
  • Magnetic Iron PLA
  • Lay-Felt
  • Gel-Lay
  • LAY-FOMM 60
  • LAY-FOMM 40

Specialty materials

In some rare cases, special materials are needed. Although not commonly used nor always readily available for purchase, these material add to the versatility of 3D printing. This list could extend significantly, but here are a few examples:

  • Polycarbonate
  • Bendlay
  • MoldLay
  • Chocolate[1][5]

Support materials

In some cases, there must be a void in a project, but while printing, something must be there to support other parts. I cases like this, support materials are used. These are printed to fill the space, then dissolved later using the required solvent, leaving only the intended product with the intended voids. These support materials include:

  • PVA (Polyvinyl Acetate; water-soluble)
  • High Impact Polystyrene (dissolved by Limonene)[6]
  • LAYaPVA (water-soluble)
  • LAY-CLOUD (water-soluble)
  • HIGH-T-LAY (water-soluble)
  • ETHY-LAY (alcohol-soluble)

[7]

References