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3D Printing

A diagram of a 3D printer

3D printing is a process where a material is added over many small individual layers to create the desired form. Many different materials can be used to 3D print although the type of printer and its components will vary in cost quite significantly depending on which material you would like to print with.
Most hobbyist level printers can be purchased for around £200 with a reel of PLA material costing around £20-£30. PLA is made from renewable resources such as corn starch or sugar cane, it’s a natural polymer designed to substitute widely used petroleum-based plastics like PET. The sugar in these renewable materials is fermented and turned into lactic acid, which is then made into polylactic acid, or PLA. PLA is typical best suited for home/hobbyist use and is great for cheap prints that don’t need to be hard wearing or achieve high strength bonds between layers. PLA prints can also become soft and deform when exposed to warm conditions.

Industrial 3D Printing

Direct Metal Printing (DMP) or also commonly known as direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) is a 3D printing technology that builds the desired part geometry by melting metal powder layer by layer. The result is intricate parts which can be manufactured by using various choices of metals to achieve the desired physical properties of the part. Metal printing can be done with several metals including Titanium, stainless steel, aluminium alloy, Nickel super alloy, and Cobalt chrome to name a few.
Metal printing has some great advantages over other manufacturing processes like casting or other traditional machining methods.

• There is almost 0% wastage when metal printing, far less wastage when compared to milling and turning which often waste large amounts of material to create the product as they are machined from a larger blank then gradually shaved down until the product dimensions are met.
• The method of printing allows for intricate designs that would not be possible using traditional methods such as casting or machining.
• Great for producing reduced weight parts. This is because with printing you can create hollows within the design and remove material that normal machining methods cannot do due to process limitations. There are some negatives to metal printing. It’s usually an expensive form of production and is best suited to one offs. Printing doesn’t yet scale up well to large volumes due to it being a slow manufacturing process, especially if you are printing large items.

Pros and Cons of 3D printing


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