What 3D Printing Is All About: A Beginner’s Guide

3D Printing Industry

3D printing is also known as “additive manufacturing” because every finished 3D printed product (if opened up sliced) is found to have thin layers of the printing material layed one of top of the other. They were added as such from the bottom-up by the extrusion nozzle of a 3D printer. The object is created from a digital file from a 3D model of it. The computer model is sliced into hundreds or thousands of layers and fed to the 3D printer.

What is the benefit of this system?

Traditional manufacturing is the old or usual way of manufacturing products, using, in contrast, subtractive manufacturing – removing parts of a block of material in order to create the desired shape. For example cutting wood or other materials. Additive manufacturing sees to it that even complex shapes can be created much more easily, uses less materials, and reduces time and wastage significantly. Parts and products can be printed on-site, hence, limiting transport needs. One-off items can be printed quickly and easily eliminating the burden of economies of scale. Products can be customized and redesigned as often as needed. 3D printing uses a variety of printing materials that are readily available – such as plastic, metal, powder, concrete, liquid, and others.

3D printing has been used in many applications and has impacted many industries, notably, the automotive industry, medical and healthcare, aerospace and construction. Others are manufacturing, architecture, design, education, entertainment and fashion.

Some of the most common examples that have been 3D printed came from a wide range of applications and many manufacturing settings. These products are airplane and spacecraft parts, car parts and accessories, running sneaker soles, mannequins and apparel, jewelries, body part prosthesis, robotics, furniture, small houses and buildings, as well as boats and bridges.

On the other hand, here are some examples or amazing, unusual and thought-provoking products: bones and muscles, including ovaries, bionic eyes, blood vessel networks, skin grafts, among others. Likewise, there’s food stuff like pizza, pastries and chocolates. Others are artificial coral reefs, replicas of archeological finds, sculptures, and more. Some homes have their own personal 3D printer that can pretty much churn up common, everyday items.


3D Printing with Graphene

Graphene is one of the most revolutionary materials ever developed. This carbon allotrope has attracted a lot of attention in the scientific community by combining some of the most desirable mechanical properties, including thermal stability, electrical conductivity, high strength, and an incredibly low weight. In fact, graphene has been found to be about seven times lighter than air.

For a long time, these attributes could only be found in graphene’s 2D form. However, with the help of 3D printing technology, this is changing. A group of researchers from the University of California Santa Cruz and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory managed to produce 3D graphene without losing any of its impressive properties. They managed this with the use of DIW 3D printing, with which they have already successfully created 3D graphene supercapacitors. In the future, this process could be used to revolutionize the manufacture of many products.

Indeed, 3D printing offers a number of impressive materials to help you achieve your manufacturing vision. Talk to our Seattle rapid prototyping company to learn more.


Making Possible High-Temperature 3D-Printing in Space

Repairing In Zero Gravity

A joint effort of engineer-researchers from the University of Sydney and University of Science and Technology of China is proving that under simulated orbital conditions, high-temperature 3D printing is possible. There is a lack of heat transfer in space, and systems that use high-temperature will in themselves overheat. However, they proved that using a new 3D printer they developed with special controllers, it can be realized.

Did you know that more than 2,500 satellites have been orbiting the Earth in the last 70 years? These satellites are vital for navigation and communication with Earth, they guide space missions, and provide imaging, scientific surveying, and others. If they fail they can impede operations, throw it off-course, and do damage to other satellites or vehicles by the debris they may discharge. Hence, they need servicing from time to time or as needed. This is accomplished via on-orbiting manufacturing, which is less expensive than rocket missions being launched from Earth with all their repair equipment.

However, the cost of on-orbit manufacturing is becoming more costly, forecasted to reach $6.2 billion by 2030. The researchers aim to reduce the cost in this area by highlighting the success of their 3D printing experiments. Using FDM 3D printing, it’s possible to produce PEEK satellite spares in-orbit. PEEK plastic is one of the most utilized thermoplastic materials in aerospace. A newly developed 3D printer with Proportional Integral (PI) controllers is able to operate at up to 400°C in a vacuum, making it ideal for future orbital repair missions.

Thermal Control

Their prototype FDM 3D printer with an upgraded thermal control is complete with heat bar, block, sink, strap, extruder and radiator. With increased heat straps between the device’s heat sink and radiator, the temperature of its central tube is more effectively controlled, while preventing melted filament backflow during material feeding. They also introduced a PI control system that acts as a failsafe device designed to kick in at temperatures of 380°C, enhancing the precision of its thermal control features, but also preventing overheating and risking repair errors.

This is one of additive manufacturing’s ambitious space applications. In the future, if their prototype printer can be successful in end-use applications, the team believes it could help reduce the cost and time of space exploration by conducting repairs that do not need additional mission launches.


Serving Aerospace For Decades

We have been serving the aerospace community for the last three decades. For prototyping and other 3D printing requirements, come to your trusted 3D printing company, 3D Composites.

3D-Printed Meat-Like Foods: For Health and Sustainability

Personalizing Meals

A research team from Zhejiang University, China, is on its way to developing 3D printable food alternatives that have the nutritional value of real meat sans the associated health and sustainability costs.

Question is, why do we need to 3D print food in the first place? This works well for those who need to personalize their meals. Meals with carefully selected amounts of protein, sugar, fats, vitamins and minerals enable people with issues like allergies, weight control, special dietary requirements, and those who are elderly, have certain illnesses, and those who serve in the armed forces, to find this a welcome alternative.

Another advantage offered by the China team research is that their food alternative is composed of ingredients that are plant-based, such as soy protein, pea protein, and wheat gluten that are of high nutritional value. They also came out with a successful formulation featuring cocoa butter as a component, which is a fat extracted from the cocoa bean. For printing, the team have developed a number of new edible plant-based gel materials that can be used to 3D print meat-like foods. The extrudability and accuracy of printing of their choice alginate of protein, starch and sodium were well studied and reported.

The researchers know of the issues gaining prominence in mainstream media with regards to healthy eating, sustainability, and animal ethics, and their plant-based meat alternatives are the answer. The
‘fake meat’ revolution, relying on soybeans, wheat, or peas, is necessary to maintain the texture and nutrients of real meat.

For example, soy, which offers an excellent source of protein, also eliminates cholesterol and saturated fats found in most red meats. Adding right amounts of cocoa butter, the emulsifier Tween-80, and sodium alginate were essential to achieving a superior 3D printing performance. The heat-sensitive cocoa butter was useful in providing fluidity during the high-temp printing process, making the gels more extrudable, and at room temperature, solidity, so the printed structures maintain their shapes.

Several companies are already thriving in the 3D printing food sector, like Redefine Meat and MeaTech, whose products are found in some high-end restaurants.


Regulating Medical Devices 3D Printed at Point of Care

3D Printed Where Needed

Medical 3D printing has made such advances as to deliver healthcare directly to patients at the Point of Care or PoC. Now 3D manufactured devices, models, implants, and other health devices can be produced on site, such as in hospitals and clinics. The US FDA, though, sees it fit that such practices are regulated.

Clinical point of care (PoC) is the actual site of patient care. This is the point in time when clinicians deliver healthcare products and services to patients. Since medical 3D printing has amazingly evolved such that medical devices, models, guides, implants, among others, can be readily obtained, patients need not endure a long waiting time for their diagnosis and treatment. These products can be printed at clinics or hospitals enhancing the significance of PoC.

However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Center for Devices and Radiological Health, or CDRH, realizes the possible uses of PoC 3D printed medical devices to the public and sees fit to establish regulations for this application.

A discussion paper on the subject, found on the FDA website, aims to generate feedback from the public as the agency develops policy. It is not yet providing specific guidelines. The document includes the background of the technology, its regulation by the FDA so far, and the relationship between a 3D printing facility and the safety and effectiveness of a medical device. Challenges to 3D printing devices at PoC and how regulatory oversight might be applied in different situations are offered.

Back in 2017, the FDa had already started regulating medical 3D printing of products outside of PoC. It already contained some guidelines which regulated the PoC printing initiatives of some of the AM giants, like Stratasys, RIZE, and 3D Systems, including the bioprinted tissues of Poietis. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, 3D printing was crucial in producing ventilator parts, masks, and nasal swabs, sometimes with the aid of on-site AM laboratories.

When regulations and guidelines are already established, it will not only benefit medical items produced at PoC, but also general goods can be made readily available at the point of use. This will jumpstart the future of distributed manufacturing. Furthermore, some 3D printing companies may open up locations in particular regions to 3D print spares on-demand for pick-up. This is a significant development not only for medical 3D printing but for the industry as a whole.


3D Printing At Point of Use

Trust 3D Composites for your needs on medical devices, models, guides, and parts. We do quick and cost-effective 3D printing products for the healthcare industry.