Faqs

3D Printing Information and Processes (9)

3D printing is a term commonly used to describe the Additive Manufacturing (AM) process. There are a wide variety of materials and processes used to create 3D printed parts, each with their own specific benefits, but the basic premise is the same:

• A 3D solid model file is loaded into the printing machine’s software system.
• The software slices the geometry of the solid model into razor thin layers from one end to the other.

whatis3dprinting

• Starting with the bottom layer, the printing machine traces the enclosed area of the cross section, curing the material into a hardened wafer as is goes.
• The machine then moves to the second layer that is now traced directly on top of the first one….and so on, and so on, until all of the layers are stacked on top of each other.

• The part has now been built layer by layer, and once removed from the machine is cleaned to remove any excess material. If no post processing finishing is required, then the part is ready to be used. It’s that simple.

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Parts right off the machine will have different surface finishes and textures. The printing process, materials and layer thickness all contribute to the variations. In many cases, the standard surface will be acceptable.

However, there are many secondary finishing options available, including bead blasting, hand sanding, polishing, sealant, clear coat, non-cosmetic, and cosmetic painting.

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  • Melted material is extruded from a heated nozzle.
  • Standard materials include PLA, HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene), ABS.
  • Specialty materials, such as Nylon, Polycarbonate, flexible plastics, stone or wood simulated plastic, Conductive PLA, Magnetic PLA, Stainless Steel PLA are available.  (Note:  Not all fabricators are experienced with these materials, and may not include them in their material options.)
  • Layer thickness can typically range from .007 to .015.
  • Wide variety of color options available.
  • Relatively good feature detail, with moderately textured surface off the machine.
  • Size range limited. Small to medium.

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• Liquid resins are cured using a UV laser.
• Hardened materials have similar properties to polypropylene, polycarbonate and ABS.
• Can be produced with clear, semi-clear, or solid color materials.
• Limited colored material options are available.
• Layer thickness can typically range from .004 to .007.
• Good feature detail and relatively smooth surface finish off the machine.
• Larger sized parts can be fabricated.

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• Powdered materials are cured using a CO2 laser.
• Hardened materials have similar properties to nylon.
• Standard layer thickness is .004.
• Colored material options are available.
• Good feature detail, with slightly “sandy” grain surface finish off the machine.
• Size range of fabricated parts is good, but limited compared to SLA.

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• Melted thermoplastic material is extruded from a heated nozzle .
• Standard materials include ABS, ASA, Polycarbonate.
• ULTEM 9085 material is heat resistant, flame retardant.
• Layer thickness can typically range from .007 to .013.
• Colored material options are available.
• Relatively good feature detail, with moderately textured surface off the machine.
• Larger sized parts can be fabricated.

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• Liquid materials deposited by a printing head, in the same manner as an ink jet printer.
• Material droplets are immediately cured by a UV light.
• Flexible and rigid materials available.
• Hardened rigid materials have similar properties to polypropylene, polycarbonate, HDPE and ABS.
• Hardened flexible material have similar properties to rubber and silicone.
• Layer thickness can typically range from .0006 to .0012.
• Clear and limited colored material options are available.
• Excellent feature detail, with minimal textured surface off the machine.
• Cost effective for smaller sized parts.
• Larger parts are possible, but may be more cost effective using other processes.

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• Powdered plaster (composite) material used combined with a 4 color 3D printing process.
• 390,000 possible color combinations.
• Print single parts with multiple colors applied to individual features, or apply colored patterns.
• Relatively good feature detail, and slightly rough surface finish off the machine.
• Hand sanding and clear coat applications available.

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• Powdered metal material cured using a laser, similar to the standard SLS process described above.
• Materials include 17-4PH Stainless Steel, Chromium Cobalt, Inconel, and Titanium.
• Excellent feature detail, with slightly “sandy” grain surface finish off the machine. (Similar to an investment casting).
• Standard metallic post processing can be accomplished, including grinding, polishing, machining, and plating.
• Perfect for high load bearing applications.

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