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3D Printing: Questions & Answers

The 3D printing universe arrived with many possible applications in different areas, bringing innovation, speed, versatility, and economy to many companies, designers, engineers, and students.  

As this new technology enters the market, and like just any novelty, this equipment raises many doubts about its use, costs, and possibilities.

For this reason, SolidFace’s team prepared on this blogpost a Q&A article to solve doubts that we received along the time. Stay with us! There is a lot of interesting questions. Get ready to know everything and more about this amazing equipment and answer to all your doubts on the subject.

 What is a 3D printer for?

3D Printing technologies

3D printing is a way to prototype objects. The first printer in this model was created by an American named Chuck Hull and had basically two functions: making lamps for solidifying resins and making rigid plastics quickly.

Since then, a lot has changed. Today, three-dimensional printers are used to print from homes to parts of the human body. But, before explaining how this is possible, it is good to understand how 3D printing works. The first step in creating an object with three dimensions is to use a computer. You can draw what you want to print using a 3D modeling software or take a photo and send it to the software to map it. With the model ready on the screen, convert the file to the standard 3D printer format.

The 3D printing process or rapid prototyping can be used for several purposes. The main advantage is the speed and relatively low cost of the models developed.

Before this technique was developed, to build a prototype of a functional part of an engine, for example, it was first necessary to model the part manually, and then to shape and make the mold. A process almost as difficult as actually producing the final version of the product. With 3D printing, it all got faster.

What types of objects can I print?

3D printers are increasingly successful and have already proven what they are capable of. They can create from the most complex to the simplest objects in an efficient and often cheaper way. As printers and their raw materials are already relatively cheap, it is even possible to bet on small productions for the manufacture of various objects, for example:

  • Arts: jewelry, sculptures;
  • Entertainment: action figures, miniatures;
  • Architecture: visualization of buildings like houses, bridges, skyscrapers
  • Health: implants, prostheses, and educational models;
  • Food: You didn’t read it wrong. Food such as pasta, chocolate is already possible.
  • Industry: spare parts for different machines.

Where do the objects come from for printing? Do I need to know computer graphics to use a 3D printer?

For an object to be printed by a 3D printer, it must first have been built using 3D modeling software on the computer. For you to create something the way you want it, there is no other way. The only way is to learn to model from scratch. For this, there are numerous alternatives on the internet, including free software and courses that will teach you how to do everything from the beginning.

A good place to start is with SolidFace, a free three-dimensional modeling software with extensive documentation, features, and a friendly community that can support and assist you when creating your first models.

How much does a 3D printer cost?

That is a tricky question. There is a wide range of 3D printers, which costs changes according to their size, features, quality, durability, and performance. It all depends on your objective. We separate some range to explain better:

-Entry-level 3D Printer: Even this category works basically for small and simple projects, it is an excellent way to learn about 3D printing. You will probably spend time on some tasks like assembling, calibrating, and testing before it be ready for print. For your information, these 3D printers mostly print objects made of one material with a small dimension (3-4″ – width, length, height). Generally, they are slow, noisy, have poor print quality, and not very durable. Cost: From $200,00 to $400,00.

– Hobbyist 3D Printer: This category is very capable. It also requires you to spend considerable time assembling, calibrating, and testing before you can print. These 3D printers often print a bit larger than entry-level ones (perhaps 5-6″ in each dimension). They are faster and capable of printing using different materials. You’ll often find that their speeds and print quality are lacking. It is not recommended to run larger project lengths thinking about repairs and maintenance to keep them running. One other limit using these this category is that you only will work printing low-temperature materials such as PLA. Generally, these printers are recommended for someone who likes 3D printing as a hobby or design and engineering students. However, these printers are not suitable for commercial use or in educational settings where you need them to print at specified times reliably. Cost: from $300 to 1500.

– Professional 3D Printers: This category holds the promise of the greatest value in 3D printing today. It is flexible, working with a wide range of materials, printing technology, and dimensions. It is effective, printing pretty good quality parts. Printers in this class are perfectly suitable in Education as well as on the commercial environments and industrial additive manufacturing process. Cost: from $3500 or above.

What are the 3D printer parts?

Ordinary 3D printers have four essential parts of their operation:

Microcontroller: considered as the brain that coordinates 3D printing; 

Motor: which will move the extrusion block or the printing table so that 3D printing is done; 

3D printer structure: itself which can be considered as the skeleton of the 3D printer; 

Extrusion block: which contains the filament or the laser that will perform the construction of the layers.

How much does it cost to print something in 3D?

As we talked about these previously 3D printer examples. Let’s now speak of materials. Modeling objects in three dimensions is also known as “accumulation modeling,” which means that you will only spend the material used in modeling, nothing more. As the raw material is sold by weight, determine how much the object you want to print weighs and calculate based on the price of the material used and what 3D printing technology you are working to.

3D Printing Technology? What is it?

There are several ways to print a digital design through a 3D printer. In total, eleven different categories of additive manufacturing processes have been established on 3D printers use today. If you are interested in know more about each one of them, click hereWe have an exclusive article about it.

How are copyrights involving printed objects?

The issue of property copyright, at least for now, is the same as it always has been, no matter if you are printing a new model on your newly acquired 3D printer or are just modeling a simple and funny project. The copyright issue is a little different when compared to music and movies, for example. This is because, when it comes to physical objects, the law has different interpretations. Generally, when you create a representation of a simple object, such as an action figure to place on your desk, for example, whether it is printed or not, you will hardly be liable for breach of rights. However, if you start to manufacture and sell products, similar to what is being sold “officially,” for example, you may face problems with justice, as you are breaking some patents.

Is it possible to print in color?

Sure, in fact, it is very common. That possibility already exists. The simplest method is to set up the plastic filament with the color before printing. However, this method does not always guarantee the best results. There are printers with two different extruders, allowing you to use two filaments of different colors automatically. The printers that work with the laser sintering process (known as selective laser sintering or SLS) are the most efficient in this área. As the equipment is more robust, it is possible to program the printer to paint each layer at the time of printing automatically. This guarantees models with an excellent finish.

Can I print a massive object on 3D Printing?

A 3D printed object has the shape you define, either inside or outside. This means you can create a hollow model, or if you like, the printer will print a massive cube.

This feature can also be defined within the printing software. Some bring the “Fill” option so that the objects have their interior filled. Others do this by default unless you determine otherwise.

Keep in mind that hollow objects tend to be more fragile, so try to define a good “thickness” for the model’s walls before starting printing so as not to run the risk of having problems. Generally, this characteristic should be related to the material chosen. The more solid the raw material, the thinner the wall can be.

What is the maximum complexity of the printed objects?

There is no limit to the complexity of printed objects. Before starting printing, the software “slices” the models into thousands of different two-dimensional layers, for the printer it makes no difference whether you are going to print a square or a functional miniature of a car engine because if you look at each one of the layers, you will see that they are just lines arranged in two dimensions. The only difference is the printing time. The more parts, the longer the process will take.

The print size is also limitless. This is proportional to the size of the equipment’s printing area, and each model has its main characteristics. The level of detail of the object is proportional to the width of the layers chosen at the time of printing. The thinner, the higher the quality of the printed item.

Is there any difference between ABS and PLA plastics used in 3D printing?

These two materials are not the only ones, but they are the most used in 3D printing. Check out the main differences between the two.

ABS: the most common material used in fusion and deposit modeling printers (the most common and most accessible to the general public) is ABS, or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. This type of polymer is very rigid and light, with a good balance between resistance and flexibility;

PLA: PLA or polymatic acid is a biodegradable polymer produced from fermented lactic acid from cultures. This type of raw material is more efficient than ABS in certain moldings. It tends to deform less after application and releases less smoke when it reaches its melting point, in addition to being biodegradable.

Materials printed with ABS may have a slightly higher final quality, but PLA has a lower melting point and results in more resistant objects at the end. Also, as the PLA is less viscous when in a liquid state, it requires less force from the extruder when expelling the material, which can guarantee a little more durability for the equipment.

What kind of materials can be used on 3D Printing?

Due to the great use by designers and engineers for creating prototypes and functional miniatures, the technology that involves 3D printing in polymers has evolved, and consequently, the materials.

The selection of the material to be used for manufacturing by 3D printing is crucial. Each object to be produced has some unique characteristics, and these peculiarities need to be met by the chosen material. To define the ideal material and avoid wasting time and investment, it is essential to consider the application of the part to be produced, the characteristics of the chosen material, and the cost of the project. The 3D printing material mostly used today are:

-PLA

-ABS

-PET

-Flexible Filament

If you want to know all the 3D Printing Materials used, we invite you to click the link button. There is an exclusive article about it, check it out!

Is it true that it is already possible to print human organs with a 3D printer? What is the material used, and how is it possible?

Although it is already possible to print human organs on a 3D printer, it may still take a while for this technology to reach laboratories and hospitals. The way it works is similar to the way a normal 3D printer works. The difference is in the raw material, which, instead of being a plastic filament, is a mixture of stem cells with cells from a specific organ, such as a kidney, for example.

However, there are still some problems to be solved in these models, and one of the main ones is the durability of the cells. Human stem cells tend not to survive the printing process. Thus, researchers still need adjustments in the process so that this can be done.

The advantage is that, despite all these problems, many people around the world are already researching ways to make the manufacture of organs viable, as this would save thousands of lives that are currently in the transplant queues.

Is it possible to print firearms on 3D printers? 

One of the biggest controversies involving 3D printers is precisely the possibility of printing firearms. It’s a fact that entry-level or hobbyist printers will have less work capacity and will normally only work with plastic resins, which is unsuitable for the level of stress that firearm shots impose. Printing weapons is only feasible on industrial printers, capable of operating with much more resistant materials.

Some onlookers are developing their models, specifically to be printed in addition to exact copies and functional limitations of existing models.

The big problem is related to control. In theory, authorities can access data relating to legal weapons that are correctly manufactured and registered to the buyer’s hands. With models printed at home, this production chain is broken. The pistol or rifle would have no registration number, in addition to not being legally identified as the property of whoever has possession. This would be harmful, for example, to police investigations, which may come to blame for the identification of conventional weapons. 

Therefore, there is a major setback between the legalization of these processes. Many countries prohibit the printing of weapons in 3D. However, American law still requires that metal detectors must detect 3D printed firearms. Even so, the United States Department of Defense has already requested that firearms digital projects be removed from the internet. Police officers fear that terrorists could use this equipment to infiltrate firearms into planes, for example.

Is it possible to print a house using 3D Printing?

Because of its properties, the 3D printer can generate walls, ceilings, floors, rooms, and other parts that build houses and buildings of all kinds. Chinese company WinSun New Materials presented a method of building houses using a large 6.7-meter high 3D printer in the city of Shanghai. She can build an entire house in less than a day, using a mixture of recycled material from old buildings, cement, and fiberglass. WinSun already builds small buildings and housing estates with this technique, even capable of simulating red bricks and other types of materials. Due to Covid-19, 

Winsun also donated 15 3D-printed isolation wards to Hubei Xianning Central Hospital. The 3D printed nurseries, with shell structure, can accommodate two patients. 

Is it possible to print a car using 3D Printing?

Yes! 3D printing technology is a revolutionary and innovative reality that gains more space in different market areas and lives. It is becoming a fundamental tool for many industries to reduce costs and have faster production. One of the greatest advances with 3D modeling is in the automobile market. In this sector, industries produce a whole 3D printed car or even a mass car part manufacturing. If you want some examples, click here.

Conclusion

You may have heard of 3D printers, but you probably don’t have one at home yet. Enthusiasts guarantee, however, that this will change soon: these machines are becoming popular and promoting profound changes in the market by offering a choice between mass production and customization between industry and manufacturing. More than that, 3D printing narrows the boundary between the virtual and physical, digital, and real worlds.

Design and customize the desired project is a big trend. The movement of “handmake” design and additive manufacturing incorporated into people’s and company’s routines will be further intensified by the popularization of technologies such as 3D printers, programs, and applications that facilitate the creative process and its execution it possible to further personalize the world to ours. 

The sector is moving from being just a hobby of the few to expanding into a broad corporate market. It is encompassing from those who just want to experience what a 3D printer can do to those who develop very specific products. The focus is still on consumers – mainly due to the ability to customize these machines and their low dissemination until 2012.

In recent years, high prices and difficult handling have kept interested parties away, but that is changing. With some of the latest models, creating the product you want is just a matter of generating (or downloading) a virtual design model and modifying it, if necessary, to adapt the object to your taste, and then send it to be printed.

Do you know Solidface?

We always recommend our readers to check SolidFace’s website. We believe that information is the key to success, and we must share it. SolidFace 3D CAD is free modeling software that can be used by students, entry-level designers, or even professionals that are already used to work with a computer-aided design program.

That is a good way for you to start. You can download free digital designs and then customize it within SolidFace’s interface. We also have many videos and tutorials on how to use and get the best results. 

If you like to work in a group, it is even better! SolidFace has a teamwork collaboration workspace so you and your colleagues can develop your project, always with the recent data and files, always working at the same time.

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