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Making Plastic Parts by Indirect Processes

When it comes to making plastic parts by using indirect processes, it can be done in various ways. Individual plastic parts or production runs of low quantity that is intended for functional usage may need different material properties other than the material utilized in available additive processes. This is also true even if the material is plastic. As a matter of fact, the additive part may belong to another type of material, such as paper or plaster.


The following include several methods used to produce plastic parts through indirect processes:

Silicone Rubber Toolingis a standard technique in making small amounts of polymer parts. Nearly any physical item is able to be used as a pattern in making silicone rubber tooling, in which turn, these tools can be utilized to mold small and medium quantities of parts within a huge variety of epoxy, urethane, or other polymers. Some polymers have properties that emulate specific engineering thermoplastics. Also, it’s possible to fill them for more strength. This method won’t produce a part that’s identical to a part that’s injection molded because the manufacture’s conditions aren’t the same.

Silicone rubber tooling is usually used in manual casting techniques. However, more automated technologies have shown up in recent years. The reaction injection molding (RIM) systems can make several parts each hour from rubber molds. Additionally, molds last longer due to the lower exposure time of chemical procedures. A great amount of the other procedural variants is also available from some vendors, like rubber plastic molding.

RTV Molding Process – this is when the temperature vulcanizing of silicone rubber is occurring. This process is poured around the pattern of a frame of the silicon rubbing process. During this process, a vacuum may be required for the assembly in order to pull out air bubbles out of the rubber. This will help insure the fidelity of the pattern. And then, the pattern is removed when the rubber is solidified and ready for use.

Aluminum Filled Epoxy Tooling – is a great choice for short prototype and productions requiring an engineering thermoplastic as the final material. Thought to be one step above from the silicone rubber tooling, the fabrication is similar to it in a practice that’s more expensive and complicated.

Molds made with this technique are utilized in injection molding machinery, but the fabricated parts are not identical to the parts made in high volume mold. Considerably longer cycle time is required because of the material’s poorer thermal conductivity in comparison to metal. Additionally, lower pressures must be utilized to accommodate its lower strength. This process is best for simple shapes. Also, depending on the requirements, the tool life is adequate for a range of 50 to 1000 parts. Lastly, a simple description of the process is provided on the sidebar.

Spray Metal Tooling – made in a similar fashion to aluminum-filled epoxy tooling, an epoxy or metal alloy tool of low melting temperatures is prepared with casting this material against a pattern. Then, a thin coat of metal is arc sprayed on the working surface of the resultant mold to give it more strength. The tool life for this process is approximately the same as for aluminum-filled epoxy. However, this process can accommodate bigger parts.

Kirksite Tooling – is spectacular for more complicated geometries, but it’s normally more expensive and less accurate than spray metal tooling or aluminum-filled epoxy. Kirksite is an alloy that is zinc-based, and the tool, producing process begins with an additive pattern. There are more transfer steps than other methods mentioned above, and the tool life is the same as aluminum-filled epoxy tools or spray metal.

Rapid Solidification Process(RSP)developed by the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) working with many large corporations, RSP Tooling LLC was established to commercialize the procedure, but it’s no longer in business. INEEL is the only source of information remaining with this technique that is maintained in its Spray Forming Group.

With this process, high velocity spraying is done on molten metal to create a polymer or ceramic pattern that can be generated by additive methods and other ways. Alloys, Kirksite, invar, gray iron, brass, copper, tool steels, and stainless steel, for instance, can be used. Also, rapid cooling and hardening are done as the form is impacted by the metal droplets.
This procedure is extremely fast, high in resolution, and gentle. Also, superior, intrinsic, metal properties are yielded.

RePliForm – a process based on electroforming, it’s used mainly as a strengthening and finishing method for plastic parts produced by additive fabrication. It’s also a tooling process still which is its original application. With is process, a metal shell is plated on an additive master. Then, the pattern is removed after the electroforming of the metal shell, and the hollow space is normally filled up with a material of a ceramic composite.

Direct Additive Fabrication of Metal Parts and Injection Molds

There are many ways to apply direct additive fabrication of metal parts and injection molds which are as follows:


Laser Sinteringused frequently to create today’s tools and metal parts. A supplier that exclusively focuses on this process makes systems that are mainly dedicated to metal or plastic materials. It provides a range of metal material that include titanium, nickel alloys, cobalt chrome, aluminum, and stainless and hardened steels.

Selective Laser Melting(SLM) – is similar to laser sintering; however, ceramic powders or fully melts metal directly form fully dense parts. No steps of post processing, such as infiltration or burnout, are needed as with the production of porous parts by laser sintering even though it’s still necessary for some finish machining.

Electron Beam Melting(EBM)originally developed at the Chalmers University, this process is powder based in which has much in common with laser sintering. However, the laser is replaced with a scanned 4KW electron beam that makes fully dense parts. Available material includes pure titanium, titanium alloy (Ti-6A1-4V), Arcam Low Alloy Steel, and H13 tool steel. Parts are fabricated within a vacuum at around 1000 degree Celsius to enhance material properties and limit internal stresses. The cooling process is also maintained to make well defined hardening. The parts also need some final matching after the fabrication.

Electron Beam Free Form Fabrication(EBFFF)) – a wire feedstock is melted by an electron beam, and material is deposited in layers up to 40 lbs each hour. EBFFF is able to utilize a wide array of material, such as refractory alloys, stainless steel, nickel, and titanium. Also, it’s energy efficient in comparison to laser based systems.

M-Print – the bonding of metal powder layers is done with selectively applied photopolymer with the usage of an inkjet head with a wide area. An UV lamp mounted on the head assembly cures in the photopolymer in layers. The formation of the green part is then sintered to create a porous steel matrix that’s infiltrated with bronze. Molds created by the method may be used to create 100s of thousands of parts of mostly any plastic.

Laser Engineered Net Shaping(LENS))developed by Sandia National Labs in which is commercialized by Optomec Inc., this is really similar to POM’s technology. This additive fabricating method isn’t self-supporting, and thus, it’s difficult in some applications to remove fully dense steel support structures. Molds and parts that are fully dense and tool steel are offered through this method from a lot of material. LENS is also stated to make better metallurgical properties than the ones available from intrinsic material. And furthermore, the parts or molds must endure considerable secondary finishing operations prior to them being used.

Direct Metal Deposition – is similar to LENS, but the main differences are in the machine control and implementation details. This method provides similar benefits in terms of several materials, capability of conformal cooling for molds, and possesses the same limitations. Additionally, this is a fairly slow process that deposits only .5 to 1 cu in per hour which makes it more appropriate for building details of the part’s pre-form rather than building it from scratch.

Ultrasonic Consolidation – offered by Fabrisonic LLC, a subsidiary of Solidica, this method is based on CNC cutting and bonding of thin, metal strip material in a tool or part utilizing a lamination technique. Strips are ultrasonically bonded together. Also, one of the spectacular provisions of this method in comparison to laser powder forming methods is avoiding expensive powder materials and high powered lasers which can be potentially hazardous and expensive. Another benefit is the reduction or elimination of EDM.

Space Puzzle Moldinga hybrid approach of Protofrom GmbH in Germany, molds are produced as complex small pieces’ series that fit together in a special framed like a jigsaw puzzle that’s three dimensional. CNC is usually utilized to create the puzzle elements. But, aluminum-filled epoxy casting and other methods have also been utilized as additive fabrication methods, such as laser sintering. Additionally, molds are removed and disassembled manually after each shot for part ejection that results in a higher piece/part cost than fully automated methods. Hundreds of parts can be produced by using the molds.

Laminated Tooling and Part Fabrication – is laminated object manufacturing (LOM) method adaptation to the problem. Usually, profiles are cut utilizing different means from metal sheets or strips that are either bonded in layers or held tightly in a frame for forming usable parts.

STAT (Sample Time Acceleration Technology) – from Catalyst PDG Inc., it is based on CNC machining of composite materials to create injection molding inserts. This method’s goal is reducing the time to get parts in final material. According to the company, a tool may be finished in six to 15 days.

Rapid Injection Molding – a fairly conventional technique used by many companies to offer injection molded parts on an expedited basis. These companies usually create modifications to the standard injection molding method and work flow that result in some minor restrictions. Nevertheless, a wide parts’ range may be manufactured in almost any plastic and at high volumes.

Protomolda certain subjective fabrication that’s really cost effective. This company can deliver parts as fast as three days for tooling costs as low as $1,795 that include 25 sample parts. They also claim to have the capability to ship parts as fast as the day after a customer’s CAD file receipt and deliver up to 500 parts in only eight hours.

Advanced Technology – provides injection molding parts and tools within 10 days to its biggest customer base of the medical industry for several years. It’s called TCT Technology, and they claim that approximately 50 percent of jobs are completed within five days. The tools made can use any production thermoplastic with mold parameters and tolerances and guaranteed for 2 million parts. The mold parameters and tolerances are identical to standard injection molding procedures.

Stereolithography-based Toolingepoxy based stereolithography material have been utilized to fabricate injection molds for several years. It may also require backing the mold with epoxy to offer strength, and perform secondary finishing operations for removing stair stepping and improve the finish.

Functional Parts and Tools by Additive Fabrication – Direct Fabrication and Indirect or Secondary Processes

Additive fabrication is a class of manufacturing procedures where a part is built by adding material layers upon one another. This process has been evolutionary in different manufacturing applications. And as a result, it is now an accepted solution in fabricating customized, geometrically complex, or low volume parts, and it’s recognizable in producing tools and parts that are not possible to combine and form into various materials. Though many applications are hidden from the public and are still in development, their ranges are potentially vast. Even some of the technology’s liabilities are transformed into advantages. Also, additive technology is utilized by directly fabricating items, such as molds and parts, or it is utilized through secondary or indirect purposes.

Direct Fabrication

Plastic and metal parts are often directly fabricated. With plastic parts, stereolithography, thermoplastic extrusion methods, and laser sintering (LS) are currently the most important forms used in direct fabrication. Stereolithography is a process in creating objects that are three dimensional with using a laser beam controlled by a computer that builds the required structure from layer to layer. This, in turn, is done with a liquid polymer that hardens with a laser light. With extrusion of thermoplastics, this is a continual process that can be adapted to produce various semi-finished and finished products, such as covered wire, film, pipe, and profile. And laser sintering(LS) creates tough components that are geometrically intricate and uses a highly powered CO2 laser to sinter or fuse powdered thermoplastics. Laser sintering 3D printing remains enclosed in powder when a part is made. This allows complex geometries and prevents the need for supportive structures. And as a result, these parts can be heat resistant, airtight, water resistant, strong, and made of exceptional materials, such as glass and aluminum filled Nylon 12.

The material in the stereolithography and processes include polymerization, monomers, and polymers. Polymers are large molecules formed by a repetition of a limited number of smaller molecules called monomers. The joining of monomers to create larger molecules is called polymerization. Many polymers naturally occur. And as a result, protein is produced by amino acid joining together, the joining of isoprene produces natural rubber, and cellulose is produced when glucose is joined together.

The development of photopolymers for stereolithography and other relatable usages led to materials that show an extensive array of properties. These engineering plastics’ mechanical properties are mimicked by available material. Optical capabilities, snap fit flexibility, and moisture resistance are illustrated. Also, further developments are being pursued or already introduced to improve situations with thermal conductivity, rubber like flexibility, shrinkage, etc.

When it comes to metal parts, they are mostly and directly fabricated with laser powder forming, selective laser melting (SLM), or laser sintering (LS). Once again, these are the most important techniques. Selective laser melting develops from fully dense parts that are in a wide metal selection. With laser sintering, it is used to fabricate parts in several metals, such as cobalt chrome, stainless steel, and steel. Infiltration of secondary metal eliminates porosity. Additionally, parts normally require final machining, and their properties would be somewhat different than parts formed totally of intrinsic material.

The formation of laser powder is able to produce huge parts in titanium, steel, and other metals at gradient, multiple, and full density material. However, the parts may somewhat need more machining than laser sintering does prior to being usable. And furthermore, metal parts’ direct fabrication is discovering its best implementation in applications of high added value, like medicine and aerospace.

Indirect or Secondary Processes

Before indirect of secondary processes can be applied, additive patterns must go through finishing operations. No technology of additive fabrication delivers adequate surface finishes for accurate applications. The stair stepping inherent removal in the different, surface artifacts’ procedures is required prior to the ejection of parts from a mold. Also, this removal can lead to more errors that are introduced.

Most of the time, the accuracy of secondary processes is limited by the pattern’s precision after finishing. Additively fabricated patterns rank best for applications that have a few critical elements. If a lot of tight tolerances are required to be held, it’s normally still cheaper and faster to use CNC.

The material properties utilized in additive processes are continually improving and expanding, but they are still comparatively small in number. Also, a limitless applications’ variety means it would always be necessary to transfer parts fabricated in a material utilized in a process of additive fabrication into another material.

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.