What is 3D Printing?
3D printing, or or additive manufacturing is the action or process of making three dimensional physical objects from a digital model. Most typically by laying down many thin layers of a material in succession with a lower cost FDM printer. Digital models can be created with a verity of software running on Apple, Linux, Windows or cloud based systems. The model geometry is exported as a volumetric file type such as a .stl. The 3D model data file then must be "sliced" into each layer that will be printed. Each layer holds the cartesian motion data for a specific 3D printer. Most printers are three axis (X, Y, Z) machines. A tool path is required for the for each of the layers for the printer to create the shape one layer at a time. A slicer program such as slic3r. AutoDesk makes a 3D modeling program called Fusion 360 that will slice directly for certain 3D printer model.
3D Printed gantry parts, gears and pulleys for RepRap Cyclone Mini Mill in Charlottesville Virginia
How can I get access to 3D Printer?
The cost have purchasing your own 3D printer has become very affordable, even at the consumer level. Currently RepReap Prusa style printers can be purchased below $500. We at Tinkersmiths make those as a service. We can custom make you a very hight quality speedy machine at that price point. You will find many other sources online offering the same. You can purchase commercial printers at that price point but the specs will not be as good. Once you get over the $2,500 price point the specs will match a custom made machine. Popular printers at that price point are the Ultimaker and the Makerbot Replicator. There are online service bureau's that will accept your 3D model though an online form, print your object and ship it to you. Some of these like Shapeways have very high end machines that can print metal jewelry, ceramics and more. They boast being able to print more than 50 material types.
Types pf 3D Printers?
- Fused deposition modeling (FDM - Most popular with plastic spool)
- Digital Light Processing(DLP)
- Electronic Beam Melting (EBM)
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
- Selective laser melting (SLM)
- Laminated object manufacturing (LOM)
How Much Does 3D Printing Cost?
Tinkersmiths Makerspace offers free 3D printing workshops weekly. Please sign up for the ElectroFunk Workshop if you want access to our printers and be able to try this at no cost.
Most prints just cost pennies. The most poplar printers use a spool of ABS plastic or PLA (made from corn) as the feed material. These spools come in a verity of colors to glow in the dark. They cost from $20 to $45 a spool. A spool can last months depending on how often you print. The electricity to drive the machines are very low. We would be hard pressed here at Tinkersmiths to produce many prints that cost near or over a single dollar.
Other types of printers to cost more to product items. Higher end machines can 3D print metal, wood, nylon, paper and biomedical material. Bone and joint replacement is being handled by this technology. Human organs and no kill meat are also being produced. Very soon this will be done cost effectively. Then there is chocolate printers, pancake bots and a verity of other unusual use cases for additive manufacturing machines.