History of 3d printing
3D printing is older than many believe. In fact, if you’re under 37 you were most likely not born when 3D printing was invented ( 3D Printing or, in short, 3DP).
This additive manufacturing technology began in 1981,when Hideo Kodamaof nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute (Japan) published a functional rapid-prototyping system using photopolymers. Layered an object was printed, each of which corresponded to a portion of it.
Although we talk about Hideo Kodama,he considers the father of the 3D printer to engineer Chuck Hull, who invented the 3D printer and later became one of the founders of the company 3D Systems.
But before we get into dates and the evolution of 3D printing we should ask ourselves a question: What is 3D printing?
WHAT IS 3D PRINTING?
This is the process of creating physical objects from placing a layered material based on a digital model. This is also called additive manufacturing,which has three steps:
- Preparing documentation: It is always necessary for specific 3D printing software to prepare the 3D design so that the additive manufacturing equipment has the information necessary to be able to manufacture the required part.
- Materialization of the design: the 3D printer will receive the information in the form of 2D sections of the design and will deposit or solidify material with the shape of the section. In order to manufacture the total volume of the 3D design, the material sections will be stacked and joined together on top of each other.
- Post-processing– This step is usually the cleaning of support material used to construct geometries or finishing tasks such as infiltrating and cooling the part. Not all technologies have the same post-processing. Because of the type of material with which it is materialized, the Prototypes post-processing may be more or less long.
3D PRINTING STARTS
Now that we’ve given some details explaining what 3D printingis, let’s get on with the history of 3D printing from its inception.
In 1984, Chuck Hull invented stereolithography. This allowed designers to create 3D models using digital data, which could be used to create tangible objects.
The key to stereolithography,a manufacturing process by addition,is photopolymer. Ultraviolet light is focused on the surface of a vat filled with photopolymeric fluid. The solid is created by the light rays drawing the object, layer by layer, on the surface of the liquid using photopolymerization.
HOW DOES A 3D PRINTER WORK?
3D printers work like inkjet printers, but instead of ink, 3D printers use a material that forms multiple stacked layers to create a tangible object.
'BESTY': THE FIRST ALTERNATIVE 3D PRINTER
Carl Deckardof the University of Texas came up with an alternative 3D printing method to Chuck Hull’s. At the time, 1987 was the year.
Instead of the 3D printing process with liquid resin, Carl Deckard transformed loose dust into solid dust. This required a laser that would bind and solidify the dust.
In this context was born the first 3D printer that worked with this method: Betsy.
FUSED DEPOSITION MODELING: A NEW METHOD OF ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING
A few years later, in 1989, the Crump couple developed another additive manufacturing method that involved melting polymer filaments to create a layer-by-layer 3D object,depositing it on a substrate. This 3D printing method or process is known as Fused Deposition Modeling.
SLA TYPE'S FIRST 3D PRINTER IS RELEASED
In 1992 former President Bill Clinton played sax on The Arsenio Hall Show, and it was here that the company founded by Chuck Hull, 3D Systems,launched the first SLA (sterolitographic) 3D printing machine.
Although the price of a 3D printer was very high and the end result had imperfections, by then the high potential of 3D printing couldbe seen. In fact, years later, this has been demonstrated by the improvement of 3D printing processes and the cheapening of 3D printers.
3D PRINTING IN MEDICINE
One of the uses of the 3D printer is the field of medicine. Just before entering a new decade, in 1999, scientists at the Wake Forest Institute, in regenerative medicine, successfully implemented in humans the first laboratory-created organ. It was a urinary bladder and a synthetic coating was used with the cells themselves, causing the risk of rejection to be reduced to almost 0.
They were good times for 3D printing in medicine. The evolution was rapid and in 2002 scientists from various institutions design a small, fully functional miniature kidneycapable of filtering blood and producing diluted urine in an animal. In 2008, the first prosthesis of a 3D printed leg was created and implemented.
Today we can see prostheses of all kinds, heart valves, blood vessels and even it is not uncommon to find complete organs made from 3D printing.
In addition, this technology has helped to reduce medical expenses. This is great news for patients, who in many cases must bear much of the medical costs.
THE REPRAP REVOLUTION
Continuing the history of 3D printing, the next remarkable milestone is in 2005. It was this year that Dr. Adrian Bowyer,from the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, created and promoted an open source initiative to build a 3D printer that could print most of its own components.
The idea of the RepRap project was to democratize the manufacture of low-cost distribution units to people around the world. Under these premises, the Darwin 3D printer,the first self-replicating 3D printer, was launched, which could print most of its own components.
SLS AND CUSTOMIZATION IN MASS ADITIVE MANUFACTURING
A year later, the first viable SLS (Selective Laser Synthesizer) machine is built.
A laser is used to melt materials during the 3D printing process. This causes the demand for industrial parts manufacturing and mass customization to skyrocket.
Also in 2006 the startup Objet built a machine capable of printing using various materials,which allowed it to be printed in different versions, with materials of different properties.
Before finishing a decade of great advances in the 3D printingsector, Shapeways launched a collaborative web platform, a place where designers, artists and architects presented their designs in 3D and could receive feedback from consumers and the rest of the community.
If this caused barriers to the entry of designers and inventors into this world to weaken, the open source hardware company to MakerBot 3D printers made things easier, reselling assembly kits that allowed buyers manufacture their own 3D printers and other products.
After the first decade of the 2000s we find a sector where the prices of 3D printers are falling and becoming more and more accessible, while the quality and precision of the machines improves by leaps andbounds.
Designers, architects and other professionals are less and less limited to plastic printing.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE 3D PRINTER FROM 2011 TO THE CURRENT
Engineers from the University of Southampton designed and planned in 2011 the first 3D printed aircraft. With a budget of 7,000 euros and within seven days, it is possible to build a 3D printed drone.
3D printing allows your wings to have an elliptical shape, a typically expensive feature, which helps improve aerodynamic efficiency and ostensibly reduces induced strength.
This is not the only novelty in terms of 3D printed means of transport that occurs that year. Kor Ecologic presents in partnership the Urbee,the first prototype car whose bodywork is 3D printed. The Urbee is intended to be a fuel efficient vehicle and cost-of-production.
In 2011, the year of great advances in the world of 3D printing,a new horizon was opened to jewelers, as the company i.materialise offers the possibility to print in 14 carat gold and sterling silver. This makes jewelry designs more economical using this material.
3D PRINTED JAW PROSTHESIS
More recently, in 2012, Dutch doctors and engineers worked with a 3D printer specially designed by the company LayerWise,which allowed the printing of custom jaw prostheses. An 83-year-old woman, who suffered from a chronic bone infection in her mouth, was the first person to have a 3D-printed jawimplanted.
OBAMA MAKES 3D PRINTERS FASHION
In a State of the Union address delivered in 2013 and in a talk with internet users organized by Google+, the then President of the United States, Barack Obama,grew interest in 3D printing among society to reach levels that had not been reached to date.
For the former president of the United States, 3D printing technology “has the potential to revolutionize the way we do almost everything.”
This also led to a high increase in the shares of companies in the sector. Thus, 3D Systems’ shares tripled in a year and Stratasys’s shares doubled.
3D printing became so popular that even the United States Congress was considering a bill to ban the manufacture of weapons using this manufacturing-by-additiontechnology.
A weapon made of 3D printing could be made of plastic, making it undetectable for traditional security systems.
Faced with this situation, MakerBoot,the company mentioned above, took action in the manufacture of weapons by 3D printing by establishing terms that prevented users from sharing plans of firearms.
AND CURRENTLY IN WHICH POINT IS THE EVOLUTION OF THE 3D PRINTER?
Today we can say that 3D printing has not yet reached its limit and there are still many new projects and discoveries to come to light.
TYPES OF 3D PRINTERS
Throughout the explanation of the history of 3D printing it is easy to see the evolution of the 3D printer over the years. Thus, 3D printers can be classified according to the 3D printing technology they use:
This technology was first used by Chuck Hull, who invented3D printing.
This type of 3D printing consists of applying a beam of ultraviolet light to a light-sensitive liquid resin. Layer by layer, UV light gradually solidifies this resin.
The base that supports the structure scrolls down so that ultraviolet light influences the new bath. In this way the physical object acquires the shape that is intended to be given.
While a high amount of material may end up being wasted (it will depend on the object to be manufactured), the parts obtained at the end of the process are of very high quality.
Previously we have also talked about SLS, a technology that prints objects in 3D through the laser.
Unlike SLA technology, it allows to work with a variety of powdered materials, such as nylon, ceramics or glass.
How does 3D printing by SLS work? The laser impacts the dust, melts the material and solidifies.
On the other hand, while stereolithography printing could waste a large amount of material, in this case all unused material is stored in the same place where printing began.
Both this technology and SLA technology achieve parts with greater printing and can increase the print speed.
If we think of the conventional ink printing system, that of the printers of our houses, we will be very close to this 3D printing technology. The only difference is that instead of injecting ink droplets onto the paper, layers of liquid photopolymer are injected that can be cured into the building tray.
The additive manufacturing technique of molten deposition modeling is a technology in which it is about depositing molten polymer, layer by layer, on a flat base.
The material is melted, previously in solid state, and ejected by the nozzle into very fine threads that solidify as each layer takes shape.
The results obtained through this technology are usually of lower quality than those obtained by 3D printing by SLA or SLS. Anyway, this type of printing is the most widespread at the level of non-professional users. And here its greatest contribution to the evolution of 3D printing: FDM printing (also called FFF, Fused Filament Fabrication) has managed to place 3D printing at anyone’s fingertips.
You can see that 3D printers work differently depending on the technology they work with, which also makes the 3D printing process different in each case.
3D PRINTER MATERIALS
The range of thermoplastic filaments available is very wide and constantly evolving, which causes new materials to be released periodically. Although, the most widespread are the following:
This type of plastic is ideal if you are going to make Prototypes thought of withstanding efforts as it is very flexible and high-strength. Another positive aspect is that it has a wide variety of colors, as well as being recyclable. As negative points, it suffers with UV exposure and is not biodegradable. It is an acetone soluble material and its density is 1.05 g/cm3. The head should be at a temperature of approximately 240oC and the tray at 80o. ABS needs a base or hot area of the structure to be able to adhere to the surface of the structure in a stable way. It can give off an intense plastic odor, so it is better to use this 3D printing material in an area with adequate ventilation. In short, it is one of the most widely used materials 3D printing.
Although the texture of the pieces printed on this material are not as soft as with ABS, they are brighter and better finishes are achieved in the corners. Like ABS,it offers a wide range of colors,where a transparent filament also stands out. Although it is made from renewable sources, PLA is harder to recycle than ABS. It has a density ranging from 1.2 to 1.2 g/cm3. and is inflexible, so it can be easily broken if subjected to effort. The temperature required for printing isoabout 210oC with the base at about 60oC.o
Suitable material for glass products, such as bottles and other packaging. Very strong and with a high resistance to impacts, its main property is the capacity of crystallization, generating transparent parts.
Lighter than ABS or PLA,it is a very resistant material, little viscous, able to withstand high temperatures and with different varieties that give it flexibility and transparency. Although it does not produce hazardous fumes during printing at an appropriate temperature, it is advisable to print with this type of material in an area with good ventilation. On the negative side, it has a lack of adhesion of the piece to the tray and it is important to dry it in the oven for 3-4 hours, as it is a material prone to catching moisture.
It is a composite material of wood and polymer. Its main handicap is the process temperature, which should not exceed 190 oC.
It requires PLA-like temperatures, with the difference that the resulting color may be lighter or darker depending on whether the temperature is increased or reduced a little.
It is a material with characteristics very similar to those of ABS. It is often used in combination with this to make parts with hollow spaces,using HIPS as a support.
The greatest peculiarity of this type of material is the flexibility it provides. Parts that are printed with Ninjaflex can be easily deformed.
Within this list of materials we also add several metals: three of the most used in 3D printing are aluminum,cobalt derivatives and stainless steel (powder), one of the strongest metals.
More recently gold and silverare also included, with applications especially in the jewelry sector.
However, because the melting temperature of the vast majority of metals is very high (approximately 500 oC), 3D printers that print this type of powder are usually quite expensive and the printing process carries some danger.
HOW MUCH DOES A 3D PRINTER COST?
In addition to the quality, the materials used, the speed… and as usual, price is a determining factor when choosing a 3D printer.
The price of a 3D printer,although it may be competitive, is high enough to target the company sector more.
Speaking in dollars, we can find them for about 2,000 – 2,5000 dollars (there are many models and a large price fork, which makes it possible for example to find 3D printers for less than $300). This cost is a high investment if the recipient is a particular user, which makes us think that if you purchase a 3D printer it is because it is really necessary.
BEST 3D PRINTERS
There are several lists of the best 3D printers and they can be categorized in different ways. For example, you can rate 3D printers that are plug & play, easy and quick to install, or large format 3D printers, designed for the industrial sector.
Ranking the best 3D printers can be subjective, as it will depend mainly on the needs of each one. For example, someone might think that a 3D printer might be great for one type of use, but if someone else needs to give it a different use, that may not be the best 3D printer you can buy.
3D SYSTEMS - PROJET 5500X
This 3D printer uses MultiJet (MJP) technology, which allows printing of various materials (whether flexible or rigid and in different shades of color. The print speed of the Projet 5500X,from 3D Systems, is the fastest in the market of 3D printers of the same category,by a larger 67 print volume. In addition, it allows the creation of composite materials.
STRATASYS - OBJET260 CONNEX
It allows you to create objects with various materials, both translucent and opaque, rigid or flexible, biocompatible or resistant to high temperatures. It has a wide range of colours, from neutral tones to intense colors. The Connex3 3D prints any type of model.
It is an ideal 3D printer for prototyping. It enjoys high versatility, the result of PolyJet precision and soluble support.
This Stratasys 3D printer allows you to polish every detail thanks to a layer resolution of 16 microns. In addition, the high degree of detail of the Objet260 Connex3 directly from CAD also allows for very precise threads to be created.
EOS M 400
The EOS 3D M 400 printeris an ideal additive manufacturing system for printing high-quality metal parts on an industrial scale.
With a construction volume of 400 x 400 x 400 mm, it allows printing directly from CAD,without the need for complementary tools.
STRATASYS - F900
It is the largest 3D printer working with the FDMsystem. Reduces and increases the level of production of large parts.
In addition, it allows you to directly import the files of the most used CAD formats.
Insight software allows you to make modifications on the fly and review production materials without affecting production times.
3D Hub is a company specialized in the manufacture of high quality, fully functional prototypes.
And not only that, but we can also apply different surface finishes and various types of treatments.
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