3D printing services have been around since the 1980s. In 2021, the 3D printing sector was valued at $13.84 billion, according to DigitalJournal. It is expected to grow to a $76.17 billion industry by 2030. Given the rapid growth of this sector, it might be useful to understand how it works.
What Exactly is 3D Printing?
3D printing is a method of creating 3D solid objects from a digital file. To achieve this, the machine uses an additive procedure, where objects are created by laying down layers of material until the 3D object is complete. 3D printers use CAD to develop items from materials like molten plastic or powder. The printed objects can be in any shape. Some will fit on your office desk, while others can be as large as a regular SUV.
Today, 3D printing is used in almost all industries you can think of. Some of the common applications of the technology are:
- Footwear and eyewear
- Dental products
- Movie props
- Reconstructing fossils
- Art and jewellery
Which Materials Are Used for 3D Printing?
At 3ds.com, you can get 3D printed models in different materials. This technology is flexible enough to let manufacturers determine the shape, texture, and hardness of the final product.
Of all the materials used in 3D printing, plastic is the most popular. The main benefits of using plastic are that it is firm, flexible, and smooth. In addition, plastic comes in many different colours and is relatively inexpensive. The plastic used in 3D printing is usually made of these materials:
- Polyastic acid (PLA)
- Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)
- Polyvinyl Alcohol Plastic (PVA)
- Polycarbonate (PC)
You can also get models in metal, and this ranks as the second most popular material in 3D printing. To make metal parts, the manufacturer has to use a process known as direct metal laser sintering or DMLS. Metal 3D printing is mostly used to make component tools in the aerospace and automotive industries. It is also used extensively in the jewellery industry. With 3D printing, this sector is able to make jewellery faster and in larger quantities. Metal is also quite strong and can be used to produce a diverse range of items.
The metals that are applicable to the DMLS printing technique include:
- Stainless steel
Stainless steel is the best material for manufacturing items that will regularly come into contact with water. Gold is mostly used to make jewellery, while aluminium is the best for printing thin metal objects.
Carbon Fiber and Other Composites
Another material used in 3D printing is carbon fiber. This is mostly used as a coat over plastic printed models and is meant to make the material stronger. The use of carbon fibre over plastic is usually used as a convenient alternative to metal. Aside from carbon fibre, 3D printing can be done with other composites like PA glass, PA aluminium, and plastic Kevlar, among others.
3D printing isn’t new, but it has only recently become available to the general public. The industry is growing quite fast. You can make 3D-printed models in many different materials. These include plastic, metal, carbon fibre, wax, PA glass, and plastic Kevlar. The technology is currently being used in industries like the automotive and jewellery sectors.