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3D Printers

Author: Kuhu Bhattacharya

100 years ago, one could not have imagined having the leisure of printing toys, artifacts and jewelry at home. However, advancements in science and technology have given birth to yet another remarkable invention, the 3D Printer. The 3D printer was first introduced in the early 1980’s but has gained its maximum popularity only in recent times.

But have you ever wondered how a 3D Printer works?

3D printing is a process of making three dimensional objects from a digital file stored on a device. Successive layers of material are laid until an object is created and each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced cross-section of the object. The printed parts are rarely solid. Most of the time, 3D printed parts are embossed with a shell and closed-cell infill, which saves material and print time without sacrificing its strength. It creates physical objects from a geometrical representation by successive addition of materials.Though the motors are relatively small in size, they have enough power to guide the head or print bed with millimetric precision.

Each 3D printer is built in a similar way with three linear axes. They are located at right angles to each other to prevent change in position during the printing process. For aid in movements along the axes, mechanisms such as pulleys,motors, rods, and timing belts are used.

3D printers are typically composed of 2 types of plastics, namely, Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and Polylactic acid (PLA). A gear exists which pulls the piece of filament attached to the mechanism through the printer head and just before it is extruded by the pointed nozzle, the filament passes through a heated tube and liquifies itself. The nozzle deposits ultra-fine lines generally about 0.1 millimeter across the machine and the plastic solidifies quickly, sealing all the layers together. ABS is normally printed on a heated surface to avoid the bottom layer of plastic curling up whereas PLA can be printed on a non-heated surface.

The best part is, 3D printers don’t just print plastic. Professional 3D printers are capable of printing higher quality objects with more diverse materials such as ceramic, steel and brass.

As we embark upon the fourth industrial revolution, we must take a look at some of the marvelous inventions we have created along the way. The advancement in 3D printers is just one of many examples to show our advancement in the field of technology.


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