3D printing is the umbrella term for a range of presently 15 different technologies and each is a process that transforms a digital image into a physical object. So, imagine a simple object like a cup, it begins as a vision or a dream but what we would technically term a virtual image and remains so until you actually, with the aid of, one of several CAD tools, design the cup and in so doing create a digital image.
Much the same way that you would draw a cup on a piece of paper, except that, using CAD you can design the cup digitally in 3 dimensions.
This image or design, with the aid of a computer is transferred to a 3D printer through a process called Slicing and what began as a dream or concept is gradually built up into a solid object.
At this point we are neck and neck with traditional manufacturing processes, and thats where it ends, radically.
We mentioned "Slicing" earlier, well that design is digitally sliced into as many layers as specified and this data is communicated to the 3D printer(depending on which particular technology you are employing), which using thermoplastic material, or resins as the case may be, will layer by layer build up the model. This we call Additive manufacturing because we add and add to layers upon layers.
Additive manufacturing is broadly split into seven different areas of technology; and these further divide into roughly fifteen sub divisions that we hinted at above, each a distinct and separate technology arriving at that same simple cup! Imagine the fuss just to create a cup through different processes.
That is the power of the creative mind!
There may be a finite number of ways to skin a cat but there is an increasing number of ways to make a cup.
However, what that means is, specially adapted plastics are heated up and squeezed out, thin layer by thin layer into a pre determined format to form your object; just like toothpaste is squeezed out!
Our particular process or technology is called FDM, Fused Deposition Modelling or FFF, Fused Freeform Fabrication, having been liberated from binding intellectual property restrictions.
3D printing is regarded as the third industrial revolution because it immediately removes the exclusive nature of manufacturing away from traditional Industry and firmly relocates it into the hands of the individual.
In so doing prototyping is made more affordable and quicker and carries less waste.
Perhaps the most crucial and exciting benefit from this invention is the fact that creativity is promoted and enhanced, and empowers the individual with a passion!
The American Chuck Hall is said to have invented the process in 1983 and patented it in 1984 however, research indicates that a certain Hideo Kodama actually applied for a patent in 1981 but this failed due to funding problems. Similar issues beset a trio of Frenchmen and their patent application faltered also.
But then Chuck Hall who had also been working in this field, broke through in 1984 with his own invention and successfully patented it in 1986.
Upon the expiration of this patent we have seen an explosion of manufacturers across the globe developing and producing 3D printers with increasing levels of sophistication and capability using an exotic and exciting blend of materials and technologies to produce highly imaginative results.
Surveys indicate that from 2007 to the present, sales of 3D printers have grown from around 60 or so to well in excess of 250,000.
In Britain there is a scheme to install a 3D printer in every school and so stimulate creativity in the coming generation.
The machine that was absolutely out of reach to the individual because of the enormous costs of technology is now available to a child at around £100 though an industrial scale printer will still top the market at prices over £100,000!
As technology evolves so do the uses:
Prosthetics, Medical, Aerospace, Aircraft Manufacture, Education, Architecture, Mechanical Engineering, Cinema Props, Automobile Engineering, Toys, Food, Building, Inventors, Product Designers, Fashion Industry, Furniture Makers, Artists.......
Have you noticed how man created the wheel, splintered the atom, landed on the moon, and are now tinkering with cloning man after moving on from Dolly the sheep?
Well, it begins in the mind and at Eternal Energy Resources we are drawing from that inexhaustible well of creativity, virtual is reality!
We will 3D print it and give a digital life a future!