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Additional Organizations

There are additional companies that produced 3D printing systems. Formlabs, PP3DP Company (China), Ultimaking Ltd. (Netherlands), and Solidoodle just to name a few. Formlabs, based in Massachusetts, was founded in 2011 was well known for raising close to $3 million in a Kickstarter campaign, and for also creating the Form 1 and Form 2 3D printers.

Formlabs and PP3DP Company

Formlabs was founded by Maxin Lobovsky, Natan Linder, and David Cranor. The three students met while students at MIT, in the Media Lab. They used their experiences at MIT, as well as Lobovsky using his experience with the Fab@Home project at Cornell University to create FormLabs. FormLabs was developed to create an easy-to-use and affordable desktop stereolithography 3D printer, while receiving early investing from Mitch Kapor, Joi Ito, and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavor. FormLabs had been featured in a documentary, titled Print the Legend, which documented the stories of several leading companies in the 3D desktop industry. FormLabs was a leader in the 3D printing world.

PP3DP Company (China), also known as Personal Portable 3D Printer, was founded in 2003, by Beijing Tiertime Technology Co., Ltd (Tiertime). Being one of the leading innovators and biggest 3D printing solutions, PP3DP is a major provider to the global 3D printing industry.

The Ultimaking Ltd Company

Ultimaking Ltd, was a Dutch 3D printing company, founded in 2011, by Martijn Elserman, Erik de Bruijn, and Siert Wijnia. Ultimaker first began to sell their printers in May 2011. The foundation of Ultimaking was first laid down by Siert Wijnia at ProtoSpace Utrecht. Siert organized workshops to build the RepRap 3D printer, with Elserman and de Bruin assisting in the workshops. Being unable to build the RepRap design, they all were inspired to create their own 3D design. The first prototype of their design was named the Ultimaker protobox, with newer models named Ultimaker.

The software to make the Ultimaker was ran under a Replicator-G modified version but later changed it to run under the Cura software because more users were able to use and understand the software more easily than the Replicator-G software. Although the Ultimaker was originally supposed to mimic the RepRap, the Ultimaker was not focused on self-replication. The Ultimaker was designed to make high quality prints. With the Ultimaker 3D printer being changed and remodeled, there had been several models of the Ultimaker 3D printer placed into service. The latest model being the Ultimaker 2 Go was released in April 2015. This printer was a compact and portable design that came with a travel case for easy transportation.

3D printers from Solidoodle

Solidoodle, a 3D company headquartered in Brooklyn, New York was founded in September 2011 by Sam Cervantes. Solidoodle 3D printers used digital files supplied by the user to create physical parts. The Solidoodle, unlike the RepRap that favor self-construction, was already pre-assembled. The Solidoodle printers had protective steel shells, were assembled, and were priced under $1000. There were four models of the Solidoodle printer. The last model, the Solidoodle 4, was launched November 22, 2103. It improved on the Solidoodle 3 by adding a protective outer shell. The Solidoodle printer strived to enhance the functionality of the printer while performing just as well as more expensive printers.

The Solidoodle Company decided to remove themselves out of the 3D printer market in March 2016, closing operations and laying off all 70 employees. Issues with the quality of their last 3D printer, the Solidoodle Press was the start of the company’s issues, as well as with the 3D printing market shrinking.

The Rise of 3D Printing for Users All Over the World

The 3D printer market requires manufacturing firms to be flexible and constantly looking for ways to expand user technologies to remain competitive. In order to keep up with changing times and with technology constantly changing, the 3D printer had to be ever changing. 3D printing had evolved from the very first printer up until the current times. Eventually the 3D printers would not need as much equipment as they do now and should be able to complete jobs without any user help. 3D printing will become more accessible and affordable to users all over the world and will become easier to use for those needing the technology. 3D printing will continue to change the printing world.

3D Systems

3D systems, a comprehensive set of products and services, that included 3D printers, print materials, on-demand parts services, and digital tools. The 3D ecosystem helped support advanced applications from the product design shop to the operating room. 3D systems had the ability to simulate, do virtual surgical planning, and print medical and dental devices, as well as, provided patient-specific surgical instruments. The 3D system was the original 3D printer and shaper of future 3D solutions, allowing companies and professionals to optimize their designs, bring to life their workflows, be innovative in their products and deliver new business models.


The Early Beginnings

3D systems was founded in Valencia, California, by Chuck Hull, the patent-holder and inventor of the first stereolithography (SLA) rapid prototyping system. Before the SLA rapid prototyping was introduced, prior models were expensive and took time to create. With the introduction of solid-state lasers in 1996, Hull and his 3D team were allowed to reformulate their materials. Hull was replaced by Avi Reichental in 2013, while Hull remained an active member of3D systems’ board and as the company’s Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President. Reichental stepped down as CEO of 3D Systems in 2015, being replaced by Chief Legal Officer Andrew Johnson.

An acquisition in 2001 allowed 3D systems to expand the company’s technology through ownership of software, materials, printers, and printable content, as well as access to the engineers and designer’s skills. Consolidating the 3D printing industry under one roof and logo, 3D became a comprehensive one-stop-shop capable of servicing all links in the scan/create-to-print chain.

Innovations for Product Development and Improvement

3D Systems manufactured several different printers and jet printers. The selective laser printer, the color-jet printer, and the multi-jet printing are a few examples. Each technology took digital input from three-dimensional data and then created three-dimensional parts through an additive, layer-by-layer process. There were also three branches of printers offered by 3D Systems. Personal, professional, and production.

3D Systems relied on in-house innovation for product development and improvement, as well as a protective shield of patents to catapult their technologies over competitors. With customers in over countries, 3D Systems employed over 2100 employers 25 countries, San Francisco, Italy, China, and Japan are a few of those locations. 3D Systems also had more than 359 U.S and foreign patents. 3D systems took the 3D printing technology worldwide, making it accessible to those needing the technology and making printing easier and well as within reach.

Rep Rap Organization Project

The RepRap Printer, also called the Replicating Rapid Prototyper, was created as a starting point for the British to develop a 3D printer. This 3D printer would be able to make a copy of its own items, at a low cost. With the RepRap able to make copies of its own items, the makers envisioned the possibility of the RepRap units being cheap, allowing the manufacture of more complex products without having to use complex industrial infrastructure to make them. An initial study done on the RepRap supported the claim that by using RepRap to print common products, there were major economic savings. These saving were also more cost efficient since the RepRap printers was able to clone themselves. Making the savings even greater.

RepRap, started by Dr. Adrian Bowyer in 2005, a mechanical engineering lecturer at the University of Bath, UK, was first prototyped in September 2006. Adrian Bowyer, a British engineer and mathematician, after spending twenty-two years as a lecturer, then retired from academic life. The first model of the RepRap successfully printed the first part of itself. April 2008, the user friendly model was made by RepRap, an iPod clamp. This iPod clamp would securely adhere to the dashboard of a vehicle. RepRap takes the form of a 3D desktop printer, capable of printing plastic objects. By making a kit of itself, a kit that could be assembled by anyone that has the time and material, the RepRap was self-replicating.

A Great Potential to Educational Applications

Electronics printing was a major goal of the RepRap, focusing on electronics such as the circuit board. The technology of RepRap had such great potential to educational applications that the system had been used for educational mobile robotics platforms. The evidence that the RepRap was beneficial to education came from the affordable cost for rapid prototyping in the classroom, and also from the creation of inexpensive scientific equipment from the hardware designs that produced high quality products.

The RepRap also had other 3D printers that self-replicated. The RepRap Snappy, RepRap Dollo, and the RepRap Generation 7 Electronics. Although they may not have been the original RepRap, they were still more advanced than other self-replicating printers. With the goal of RepRap to produce self-replicating devices, not for its own purposes but to help individuals anywhere in the world, the RepRap 3D printing system enabled any individual to manufacture many different items and everyday life artifacts.

RepRap had revolutionized 3D printing

The RepRap had singlehandedly changed the 3D printing game by allowing anything to be printed over and over again using one machine. With the easy to use, do-it-yourself capabilities, as well as the low cost of obtaining the RepRap, the printer in retrospect gave printer power to the powerless. Bowyer had suggested that the RepRap were like viruses in that they had the ability to grow exponentially. If the RepRap could produce one prototype of one thing, then copy itself per day, the number of copies at the end of a month would be substantial. What other 3D printer had those capabilities? The RepRap had revolutionized 3D printing.

Fab@Home Organization

Fab@Home, the first multi-material 3D printer made available to the public, was also one of the first two open-source do-it-yourself 3D printers. The other printer was the RepRap. The goal of the Fab@Home project was to change the high cost and closed nature of the 3D printing industry by creating a low-cost, versatile, open printer. Since the Fab@Home release in 2006, there had been hundreds of Fab@Home 3D printers built across the world. The design elements of Fab@Home could be found in many do-it-yourself printers, more often in the MakerBot Replicator. The Fab@Home project was closed in 2012 once the project’s goal was achieved and distribution of do-it-yourself printers were outpaced by the sales of industrial printers for the first time.

Creating a Fabrication System with Low Costs

Fab@Home was started in 2006 by Professor Hod Lipson and Evan Malone of the Cornell Computational Synthesis Lab. While attempting to design a robot that could reprogram itself and produce its own hardware, Lipson discovered the need for a rapid-prototyping fabrication machine. The technology for the rapid-prototyping, while already in existence, was expensive and was restricted to high-tech labs. With the technology being expensive, Lipson and PhD student, Evan Malone, decided to experiment low costs of creating a fabrication system. Within a year, the fabrication system was awarded the Popular Mechanics Breakthrough award, as well as the Rapid Prototyping Journal Best Paper of the Year Award, leading to hundreds of kits being built.

The Home Computer Revolution

The Fab@Home project was led by students at Cornell University’s department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering. The goal of the project was inspired by the Altair 8800, one of the first DIY home computer kits, which was released in 1975. The Altair 8800 has largely been credited with jump starting the home computer revolution and the transition from industrial mainframes to the desktop. One version of the Fab@Home was the Fab@School project. This project explored the use of 3D printers more suited for use in elementary grades. Fab@School printers could print with materials such as Play-Doh and included safety enclosures.

The Fab@Home Project, did not sell 3D printers, they researched, developed, and then allowed the consumers to build their own. The project was one of the first larger scale cases that applied the open source development model to physical devices, a process that would later become known as Open Source Hardware. The project bought 3D printing from an unknown technology to the attention of a broader consumer base.

MakerBot Industries

MakerBot Industries, founded in 2009, in New York by Bre Pettis, Adam Mayer, and Zach Smith, was created to engineer and produce 3D printers, using the RepRap 3D printer as their model. Zach Smith was one of the founding members of RepRap Research Foundation, a non-profit program that helped in early research for open-source 3D printers. Bre Pettis, during an art residency in Vienna with Johannes Grenzfurthner/nomochrom in 2007, wanted to create a robot that would print shot glasses for the Roboexotica event and found, while researching, information on the RepRap 3D printer. The MakerBot’s consistent theme throughout their history was shot glasses.

Founding, Stocks and Closure – The Company’s History

MakerBot started shipping kits in 2009, selling roughly 3,500 units. With demand for the kits being so great, MakerBot owners decided to provide parts for future 3D printers from their own company. Funding for the future printers, was in part provided by Adrian Bowyer, the founder of RepRap, who put up $25,000. The Foundry Group, in 2011, invested $10 million into MakerBot and joined the company’s board. Soon after, Zach Smith was voted out of the company, with 100 employees being laid off around the same time.

MakerBot stocks were acquired by Stratasys Incorporated in 2013. This deal worth $403 million, was based on the share value of Stratasys. With the new deal with Stratasys meant that MakerBot would operate as a brand of Stratasys, providing service for the consumer and desktop market. Bre Pettis, then moved to Stratasys, which left his CEO position open that was later filled and succeeded by Jonathan Jaglom. With Jaglom leading the company, in 2015, he laid off 100 to 500 employees and closed the existing MakerBot retail locations.

Basic Technologies and Innovations

The products that MakerBot created was designed to be built by anyone with basic technology skills. The printers were sold as do it yourself kits, with only minor soldering needed. Later designs were closed box products, requiring very little to no construction. MakerBot had several different printer options that could be chosen from. The Cupcake CNC, the Thing-O-Matic, and the Replicator are a few of the options. The Cupcake CNC was made available April 2009. The source files needed to make The Cupcake CNC were made available online, therefore allowing anyone to build the printer from scratch. The Thing-O-Matic was the second kit by MakerBot, shipped with all the upgrades that were made for The Cupcake CNC. The Thing-O-Matic was discontinued in 2012. The Replicator, introduced in 2012, offered more than the Thing-O-Matic. With dual extruders allowing two-color builds and upgraded electronics, an LCD and a control pad were included, this gave the user direct interaction without the need for a pc. There were several revisions of the replicator printer produced after the original replicator. Each time, creating a better version of the one prior.

Importance of Universities and Online Community

The MakerBot printers were mostly purchased and used by universities including University of Maryland, Florida Polytechnic, UMass Amherst, and Xavier University. These universities were seeking to bring the 3D printing to more students and the communities surrounding them. With MakerBot hosting an online community called Thingverse, users could post 3D printable files, document designs, and collaborate on open source hardware. Thingverse being a site that could be used for design files used in 3D printing, laser cutting, and other do-it-yourself processes. The Maker Bot, better designed than the RepRap, was making printing even easier that before. With printing jobs easier than before, 3D printing became more accessible to the everyday consumer as well as provided more cost savings to them. 3D printing was something even the least tech savvy consumer could understand and afford.

Insights into Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) and Digital Light Processing (DLP) 3D Printers

3D printing technology is often used to construct highly complex objects of different kinds, properties and materials. Despite its numerous advantages, one major drawback of 3D printers is its traditionally slow speed. For instance a typical 3D printing machine such as Stereolithography (SLA) can take several hours to print a 55mm diameter object and maybe several days to complete a larger object. To overcome this major industry challenge, several 3D companies have come up with more updated and efficient technologies that guarantee quick speeds and utmost accuracy. The modern technologies include Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) and Digital Light Processing (DLP).

a) Digital Light Processing (DLP)

DLP is a type of stereolithography that is popular for performing rapid prototyping services. The technology uses projector light to perform photo-sensitive polymer cures instead of the traditional laser beam. Although DLP was first developed in 1987 by Larry Hornbeck of Texas Instrument, the first printed installation of 3D printed model with photopolymer technology was published in 1981 by Hideo Kodama of the Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research. DLP prototyping service is very expensive since it uses costly components such as photo-sensitive resin.

How Digital Light Processing Technology Works

The Digital Light Processing printer works by projecting an image over the resin surface. The resin solidifies as the printer platform finalizes the release process. In a nutshell, a repeat process begins immediately after a new layer of resin is released, coated and cured using light. Once the 3D image is fully developed, the vat is dried out to expose the solid model. The other processes that may be necessitated in the finishing stages include chemical bath, UV curing and support material removal.

The time it takes to produce 3D objects using DLP typically depends on the size of the model under construction. On the other hand, the benefits of using DLP 3D are numerous, they include the ability to print and produce high resolution objects at high speed. Some of the applications that use this technology besides 3d printing machines include cell phones, movie projectors and standard projectors.

b) Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP)

The Continuous Liquid Interface Production technology by Carbon 3D is a relatively new 3D technology that uses several thermoplastic engineering technologies to produce great finishes and resolution. The CLIP chemical process works by balancing oxygen and light to discriminately cure photo liquid resin. The technology is very popular in the field of medicine, consumer electronics and automobile.

Continuous Liquid Interface Production technology uses components such as UV curable resin, oxygen permeable window, dead zone, projector and a build platform. CLIP is highly efficient compared to other 3D printing processes because it allows the use of tunable photochemical procedure instead of the outdated mechanical procedures.

How the CLIP Process Works

The process is carried out by projecting UV images in continuous sequence. During the development stage, images are fed into the system using a digital light projector via an oxygen permeable UV transparent screen. This process takes place beneath a liquid resin bath. CLIP normally creates uncured resin between the object and window by controlling the oxygen flux. The thin layer of uncured resin is called the dead zone. Since a continuous sequence of UV images is reflected on the surface as the object being drawn, the technology makes it easy to continuously grow 3D objects without interruption.

The Advantages of Using CLIP Technology

The Carbon CLIP printer is highly efficient and fast; this advantage has made it possible for users to overcome many traditional 3D printing problems such as lack of speed. In addition, the 3D continuous printing process gives Carbon Clip the ability to develop parts without visible layers. The other CLIP advantage lies in the technology’s ability to eliminate weaknesses between the printed layers.

For this reason, users can also use the technology to develop end-user components and prototypes with nearly no visible layers while ensuring perfect finish. Carbon materials can be used to construct production components and prototypes needed by engineers and designers. Some of the most preferred materials include glass filled nylon, which is temperature resistance and the highly resilient injection molded polyurethane elastomer.

Extrusion deposition: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

Fused Deposition Modeling stands out as one of the most commonly used additive fabrication techniques. A 3D company called Stratasys uses FDM as trademark as such various open source community entities and vendors to use the term thermoplastic extrusion when talking about the same technology. Printers that use FDM technology are designed to create 3D objects, one layer at a time, beginning with the bottom part.

Foto by Markelapellaniz

How Fused Deposition Modeling System Works

The development process technique involves heating and thermoplastic filament extrusion. During the pre-processing period, 3D CAD file provides an accurate path that helps facilitate thermoplastic extrusion. When the production process kicks in, the thermoplastic is heated and transformed into a liquid state by the 3D printer. The material is then deposited along the extrusion bath in the form of fine beads. The production process also involves buffering and removal of 3D scaffolding material. The final FDM post-processing process involves breaking off the support material.

Some of the key components in a typical FDM machine include thermal housing, extrusion nozzle, plastic filament supply coil and the X-Y-Z stage system. FDM operates following the X-Y-Z axes by drawing a layer of the model, one at a time. When undertaking thermoplastic extrusion, a plastic filament is removed from the coil in order to facilitate the movement of materials to the extrusion nozzle. When the nozzle reaches over the table surface, it releases several layers of plastic material. The nozzle features a device designed to control melted plastic.

Once the plastic material cools, it hardens almost immediately. The support columns are then removed and the surface finalized. Fused Deposition Modeling is a relatively quick and less noisy technique, especially when working with small components. FDM also offers greater strength and is applicable to a lot more materials compared to other competing dimensional printing technologies. Laser Sintering technology works in a similar manner as FDM when it comes to the production of low-volume, functional plastic prototypes, but FDM equipments are much more expensive.

FDM Printers Classification and Analysis

FDM 3D printers in the market are classified based on various factors, including design series, production series and idea series. The production series printers are developed to bring out agility and aesthetics at every developmental stage thanks to ability to use different material properties and colors for tooling and prototyping. The idea series concerns, issues such as printer model and prototype cost and level of user friendliness. Lastly, design series FDM printers are developed to make designs, durable and dimensionally stable.

Positives and Negatives of Using Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) Technology

FDM has become popular because of a number of reasons, including low noise levels, reliability, high accuracy, professional finishes and office-friendliness. The technique can also be used to produce a wide range of materials. For instance, the production grade thermoplastics produced using FDM are usually environmentally friendly and mechanically stable. The major downsides of FDM technology include slow speeds on certain geometrical compositions and poor layering adhesion. FDM technique also requires expert knowledge.

Laser Powder Forming (LPF) and Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) 3D Additive technologies

a) Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)

LOM is a highly integrated additive technology that can be used to produce accurate finishes, even though the stability of paper objects falls short of those manufactured using most RP techniques. The objects developed using LOM look very similar to wood. LOM technique can also be deployed on a vast range of materials, besides paper such as ceramics, metals, plastics and composites, but on a limited scope. A typical Laminated Object Manufacturing machines feature components such as portable mirror, heater roller, wastepaper take-up roller, paper feed roll and laser.

The other critical operating apparatus includes smokestack and sealed chamber. Over the years, variations of LOM have also been developed by companies such as Mcor Technologies Ltd of Ireland, Helisys, Cubic Technologies and Solido 3D of Israel. The Mcor technology uses a knife in place of laser to cut and separate various 3D layers, before applying a bonding adhesive. The success of Mcor product is attributed to its low cost and excellent marketing strategies. Helisys, which was once a leading supplier of LOM in the US ceased operation in 2000, but its products, are still marketed by Cubic Technologies.

The Pros and Cons of Laminated Object Manufacturing Technique

Materials used in LOM object development, such as copier papers are generally very cheap. However, this technology is yet to be fully adopted as a mainstream additive technique. Some of the popular LOM application areas include the biomedical field and the process of making fluidic components and instrumentations. On the downside, the copier used in LOM is cheap and unstable because the material absorbs moisture fast. The end product can also appear warped and inaccurate. The other negative point includes LOM’s limited ability to create detailed 3D objects.

b) Laser Powder Forming (LPF)

Under the Laser Powder Forming technology, a computer controlled system is used to trace the object shape. In recent years, this laser fusing technology has gained wide acceptance among industry players because it allows users to fabricate dense objects as well as metal components at quicker speeds.

How Laser Powder Forming Technology Works

The laser released by LPF is focused using a powerful lens that is controlled by the movable joint. During the development stage, the X-Y-Z fabricates every layer of the object under development. The laser beam delivery process is fairly flexible and can be undertaken either using fiber optics or a simple right angle mirrors. The metal powder is normally fed into the system and distributed around the head using inert pressurized carrier gas or gravity. The inert gas helps cover the melt pool better layer surface wetting and adhesion.

The object created by this technology is usually placed on a rotating build platform to make it easy fabricate on multiple angles. Some of the popular metallic materials that are often used during Laser Powder Forming include copper, titanium, stainless steel and aluminum. These materials can be fed into the system in the form of wire or powdered feedstock. When it comes to laser, the power can range from a few 100 Watts to 20KW and higher. The amount of wattage used generally depends on feed rate as well as the type of material being used.

The LPF process may require finish machining to create more desirable objects. However, unlike laser sintering Laser Powder Forming does not require secondary firing process. LPF technology is mostly used in fabricating molding tools. The technology can also be used on a wide industrial scale to fabricate titanium metal components in the aerospace industry. Several studies about LPF have been initiated by various governments and university laboratories in the US, Asia and Europe to expound on the full potential of this additive technology.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Laser Powder Forming

Laser Powder Forming technologies offers several advantages over similar technologies. The benefits include the ability to develop large tools and components in a shorter timeframe using various metal alloys and composite materials. Some of the disadvantages of using LPF machinery include its huge size, high energy consumption, high operating cost and limited geometric freedom. The undercuts produced by LPF during the 3D development process may also require secondary machining.

Inkjet, Polyjet and Multijet Technologies

a) 3D inkjet printing technologies

There are several types of 3D inkjet printing technologies in use today; they include thermal phase change inkjets or ballistic particle manufacturing (BPM) and Photopolymer Phase Change Inkjets. Inkjet technologies use squirting to convert build material into a melted or liquid state. The object often hardens after it is released to form a solid mass. Solidscape is one of the pioneer companies when it in inkjet technology, thanks to its reputation for producing fine finished products. This technology is often used to develop complex medical implants and jewelry.

How Solidscape Inkjet Technology Works

Most Solidscape machines use wax support materials and plastic object. These materials are often used while in a molten liquid state. During the material processing, thermal insulated tubing is used to transfer the liquid into the jetting head. The head releases minute drops of the liquid material following a predetermined geometry in order to create different object layers. Once the layer of the object is fully developed, the milling head pushes over the layer to create a uniform flat thickness.

When the layers are being straightened, the vacuum uses a special filter to capture all the left over particles. During the next phase of development, the elevator table moves down to capture the upcoming layer one at a time. This process can only take place after fabrication, when the nozzle is clear of any clogs. When a clog appears, the jetting head must be cleaned before the process is repeated. Once the object is developed, the wax supporting material can be dissolved or melted for reuse.

The Positive and Negatives of Thermal Phase Change Inkjets

The Solidscape technology is very popular because it produces refined objects with finest details. On the downside, the technology can be painfully slow because most operations require object casting because the technology is often used to develop transient rather than fully functional components.

b) Photopolymer Phase Change Inkjet Technologies

Although Polyjet technology is a photopolymer based technology, it uses the layer-wise deposit to create objects and support materials using an inkjet head. This powerful 3D technique can be used to produce very accurate and smooth components and prototypes. The technology can also be devised to produce complex geometries and walls using a wide selection of materials. This technology was unveiled sometime in 2002 by an Israeli based firm called Object Ltd.

3D Polyjet Systems

Some of the most powerful photopolymer systems in use today include InVision by 3D systems and Object’s Eden and Connex500. The office-friendly Eden series machines can produce thin layers of up to 16 microns. The Connex500 system unveiled in 2007 was the first machine of its kind to operate simultaneously using two fabrication materials. This capability has made it easy for the system to produce parts with different properties and volume.

Positives and Negatives of Using Phase Change Inkjets

The end objects produced by Polyjet technology often exude excellent accuracy and fine resolution. This office-friendly technology also allows the use of different materials, including digitally combined materials. The negatives of using this technology include high machine purchasing cost. The components produced using Polyjet technology must also undergo various secondary processes to eliminate messier support systems.

c) Multijet Printing Technology

This rapid prototyping printing process is offers a quicker turnaround, especially when it comes to smooth finishes, high resolution and complex geometries. This additive technology can also be used to print thin layers of wax support materials and UV curable liquid plastics. One of the key components in Multijet Printing machine besides the photopolymer materials is the UV bulbs.

Binding of Granular Materials and Techniques

3D printing has greatly revolutionized the printing process since its introduction in the late 70’s. The technology has made it possible for 3D companies to create low cost prototypes and specialized components for various industrial and specialized needs. The granular binding process involves fusing different layers of granules in a repeat process in order to build a desired object. In most part, the sintering process that helps create solid media is often done using a laser beam and support systems.

On the other hand, although the vast majority of 3D printing is carried out using molten plastic; one branch of 3D printing that is growing fast is the one that involves metal fabrication and forging. Good examples of these additive metal manufacturing processes include Selective Laser Melting (SLM), Electron Beam Melting (EBM) and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS). Speaking in the same breadth, it is important to recognize that metal printing techniques are slightly different from plastic printing technologies.

a) Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)

DMLS is an efficient, additive making process with a huge leverage over other 3D printing techniques because of its versatility. Under this technique, you can work with various materials including special metal alloys, polymer-based materials and other different mediums. The technology was first developed by the Munich, Germany based firm, EOS.

How the Direct Metal Laser Sintering Technology Works

The DMLS process involves applying thin sheaths of metal powder on the surface earmarked for printing. The laser is then used to sinter the powder in order to ensure slow but steady fusion when constructing 3D objects with thin layers. Since this technology is able to read and follow intricate geometries assigned by the CAD file, layers with a thickness as small as 20 micrometers can be fused easily layer-by-layer. Once the printing process is complete, the object is left to cool. DMLS end products are usually removed from the residual tresses; as such, it is easy to work with metals and other conducive materials under pressure.

b) Electron Beam Melting (EBM)

Electron Beam Melting is an addictive manufacturing process that works the same way as Selective Laser Melting (SLM) to produce detailed and highly dense models. However, EBM uses an electronic beam instead of laser to melt the metal powder medium. This technique is often applied to a limited number of metals used in the aerospace industry such as Titanium alloy and cobalt chrome. The biggest advantage of using EBM technology compared to metal sintering techniques is its ability to produce sturdy, dense and void-free components because it operates above the melting point.

c) Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

SLS is an addictive laser manufacturing process that involves sintering powdered materials to develop 3D objects. The technology uses a high-powered laser to fuse materials such as glass, plastic and metal powders to create mass objects. However, this technology is much more suitable for producing small components and rapid prototyping. Today, laser sintering is used in direct fabrication of ceramic objects and metals.

Laser sintering is eerily similar to stereolithography, only that a laser beam is passed over the surface of a compacted powder. To attain the desired layer thickness, the powder is spread using counter rotating roller and a piston. Under laser sintering and stereolithography, the motors used to develop 3D objects are guided by CAD data input. The SLS technology was first produced and patented in the 80’s by Dr. Joe Beaman and Dr. Carl Deckard while a company called 3D Systems uses the term Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) as its trademark.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Laser Sintering Technology

Since laser sintering is often used to produce a wide range of engineering plastics and metallic components. The technology has the same advantages as those offered by less expensive additive technologies. Some of the products that can be made using this additive process include medical and aerospace products. The downside of using laser sintering technology includes its complex nature and limited application. The technology is also expensive because it uses components such as scanners and laser to run efficiently.