3D Printing Yesterday Today and Tomorrow

There are a few 3D printing key terms that need to be mentioned prior to going into full detail of the subject. These terms and/or abbreviations may be mentioned throughout this project.

(ABS) Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene- ABS is a thermoplastic that is the material that some 3D printers use when modeling 3D printers. On a side note some do not like using it because it gives off a foul odor from the burning of the plastic filament.

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Filament- Filament is the base material that is used to print 3D objects. Filaments are usually thermoplastics that are put through the 3D printer then heated and melted where they are then pumped out of a nozzle and built into the various objects that the user wants one layer at a time.

(FDM) Fused Deposition Modeling- FDM is a 3D printing process that sends out melted thermoplastic material through a nozzle that is controlled by a computer to build layers of filament. It explains the process behind how the filament is melted, dispensed, and finally built into the object of desire.

G-code-This is the format that files are saved as for 3D print printers. It would be the equivalent of .docx for Microsoft Word.

Slicing- The process of setting up a 3D object as layers that the nozzle would be able to dispense. It will convert the entire 3D model into slices, so the nozzle can build it through layers as opposed to one giant object at once.

Acetone-Acetone is the solvent that smooths out 3D printed objects to make them look crisp. It essentially dissolves the rough edges on the outside of a 3D printed object to make it shinier and smoother to the touch.

(PLA) PolyLactic Acid- This is a very popular filament used that is like ABS but is a bioplastic and as a result smells more pleasant. It is much safer and has a small environmental impact making it one of the most used filaments for 3D printing.

STL-Another file format for 3D printing and is the most widely used.

Bioprinting- The act of printing tissue and organs for implantation into people with failing organs.

When you think of the History of 3D printing you may want to think a little bit longer. 3D printing originated back in the early 1980’s. Dr. Kodama was the first to develop a rapid prototyping (RP) technique in 1980; he did not file for the patent after the one-year deadline (Jackson). The patent for stereolithography (SLA) was filed in the time required and was founded by Charles Null in 1986. In 1987 the SLA-1 was released by his Corporation, 3D Systems. Another patent was sought for in 1988 for another 3D technique where powder grains are fused together by a laser called SLS technology by Carl Deckard. Again, in the late 1980’s, Scott Crump, co-founder of Stratasys Inc. filed a patent for FDM, Fused Deposition Modeling but it would not be given until 1992 (Bensoussan). Unfailingly in 1989, Europe was forming EOS GmbH in Germany which was found by Hans Langer. After experimenting with SL processes, EOS’ R&D focus was laser sintering (LS) process. These EOS processes are still used today around the world. In 1990 EOS sold its first ‘Stereos’ system. The company’s direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) process which was initially a project through a division of Electrolux Finland later was obtained by EOS (Jackson).

The 1990’s, you could say, were the years of development for 3D printers. Early printers were so large and expensive that only companies were able to use let alone think of purchasing a 3D printer. There needed to be different materials to produce 3D models and MIT figured out a way to use starch, plaster-based powder, and water-based liquid binder to invent the Z402 printer, this license was obtained by Z Corporation (Bensoussan). Medical technology took a liking to the 3D printing technologies in the 1990’s as well. Doctors were starting to develop human organs for transplant using 3D printing technologies. It wouldn’t be until 2013 that such a transplant would take place.

Moving into the 2000’s, 3D printing technologies found itself not only in the medical field but in homes as well. The RepRap Project led to FDM 3D desktop 3D printers. The first hi-def color 3D printer was released by Z Corporation in 2005 but wouldn’t be released for home purchase until 2009. Then, in 2008 the very first 3D prosthetic limb was printed, it had a no need for assembly script. The prosthetic limb had all the biological parts of an actual limb. As there were more and more 3D printers being developed the price of desktop 3D printers started to drop to become more affordable. By the end of the 2000’s Sculpteo was created, an online 3d printing service (Goldberg).

The market for 3D printing expands to just about every faucet of every industry as you could use 3D printing to make just about anything. This includes furniture, silverware, tools, and perhaps most marketable, medical supplies. 3D printing is currently seeing development as a viable means of “creating body parts or tissues to replace or repair organs or limbs that have worn out, become damaged, or have been lost to due injury or disease” (Kirkpatrick 15). This market is perhaps one of the most promising for 3D printing as the reward for replacing body parts would drive the economic value of the 3D printer higher than if it was used solely for common materials. The act of printing body parts from 3D printers is called bioprinting and although it is not quite ready yet, “Todd Goldstein, a 3D bioprinting researcher and director of Northwell Ventures 3D Printing Laboratory, Manhasset, NY, has printed tracheas made of living cells… at a cost of under $2,000” (Kirkpatrick 16). We can see that research and development into bioprinting is advancing drastically as the market is starting to see a demand for tissues and organs. The risk is indeed great as the biomaterial needs to meet medical standards as well as adhere to what a real organ would do over the course of a lifetime. Overall, 3D printing is seeing a rapid increase in interest that is fueled by improvements in technology and the associated reduction in costs (Eley). This increase shows that the economic value of 3D printed material is steadily climbing as the software is easy to use, works with commercially manufactured 3D printers, and now the printers require far less maintenance then before (Tyson). In conclusion, bioprinting is still in a R&D stage, but is seeing rapid developments with each passing year. This is driving the market value higher and higher as the initial cost of the filaments and programs is going down progressively. Therefore, the economic value of 3D printing has nowhere to go but up and is a worthy investment for all fields of science and everyday use by its owners.

3D Printing has come a long way from the very first 3D printer being invented and how much it has advanced over the years. Even now, there is an evolution of 3D printing that is becoming a permanent part of our technology society and even throughout our daily lives. Each part that makes up a 3D printer, has advanced to make great benefits in our lives. Some of these benefits well fitted in our daily careers, just like the medical field for practices, in the military for each material needed to process through, and in the science field for their instruments (Garmire). Without these advancements for the 3D printer, there would not produce a great quality optics system in technology (Garmire), Life without 3D printing will not only be a disaster, but it will also lose a high quality of internet power, everything would not advance like how it is today (Garmire).

3D printing has changed lives for the better. One of the ways that 3D printing has made our world a better place is through our medical system. Many doctors, more so surgeons, always had the challenge of going into a patient and trying to fix an area that may or may not need the fixing, which when it is being taught, it is a must that surgeons know some of those areas if their patients need those areas to be fixed. We have very small parts in our bodies that sometimes may be difficult to get to whenever we are in pain. 3D models are a great way to teach students about those small areas that has always been overlooked and brings medical training to a whole different level beyond the classroom (Valverde). Medical Education is one of those fields that it is a must, everything advances. 3D printing is also a great tool for explaining the steps to patients during consultations prior to performing that surgery (Valverde).

Another way that 3D Printing has changed lives for the better is through architecture. As we all know about architecture, it takes some time to create and perfect a building before constractors build that building. The speed, cost, safety, and the flexibility it gives architects an easier way of planning and get to build a building at a more decent and quicker time (Romeo). These 3D models have the same characteristics as a full building, but with the 3D model it is much clearer to see each detail (Leach). Even though 3D printing is very awesome and very convenient, there are certain limitations that we all must recognize as we continue to use 3D Printing. While it is very possible for architects to use 3D models for large-scale construction, it is not as well customized as with small- scaled construction, it is much easier to use (Leach). Even though 3D printing is great and easy, it can be quite expensive for whatever size one may be looking for (Leach).

Since everything is going towards technology now, it would not make a big difference with 3d printing. There are obviously more tests that need to be done over 3D Printing in all. With all the advancements that have already taken place, this method will be here to stay and continue to change our lives forever. There are some studies that state that by 2030, the construction industry and even some places such as NASA, will all use 3D printing (Lea). It has proven and will continue to prove that it has helped advanced performances on most of the areas in our lives that need it, just like the medical and architecture fields (Lea). It has also proven on the speed time on whatever task we need the printer to get a job done in a timely matter.

Many 3D printing programs can be found such as Sketchup, Blender, and 3D Paint. Companies such as Autodesk and Microsoft have free software that anyone can download and use. Now unless a 3D printer is hooked up to your device which one of these programs is running on you can create freely but not print. Some of the programs have templates already installed along with the program to allow easier measurements for printing, SketchUp has two templates in the launcher. Not much is required to know how to 3D print objects but some basic file types for printable models consist of .skp, .stl, or .obj.

As with most software there is probably a free version out on the web or a pirated version. Luckily for want to be 3D Modelers there is plenty of free software to use, each with their own limitations. Computers installed with the Windows 10 OS have a built in Modeling software by the name of 3D Paint. While it certainly is not the most luxurious you can still do quite a lot, including 3D Printing. Other more “advanced” free software would be Blender and Sketchup, both having different learning curves. Blender is great for smooth surfaces, sculpting, planning, and more texture heavy stuff (Foundation). Sketchup is better for floor plans, objects, interior design, and most of the fine detail stuff (Trimble). There is a software by the name Autodesk, or CAD, that does have a free trial but is rather costly; the reason for that being is that it is used on the industrial scale with certain companies.

If you have experience with a 3D printer you may find that some things can be more difficult and time consuming to print. For example, a solid cube that is four by four inches will take around thirty minutes to an hour with commercial printers. To avoid such a long wait time, some printers have software built in that can put less material down without sacrificing the integrity of the object being printed. So that cube mentioned earlier has been cut down to around twenty to thirty minutes using a cross hatch method. Now if you were to print a file which contained two objects, let’s say one is in the “air”, you might run into a few problems. When the printer starts to produce the “airborne” object the filament will just seep out of the nozzle and onto the surface of the printer.

A primary component of 3D printing is the printer itself, to obtain a printer you could risk making your own or buying one from a company. A few companies that sell 3D printers are Formlabs, Markforged, and 3D Systems (Natives). With various sizes and variants of printers some companies can excel in different markets. For example, the company Formlabs sells printers around the size of two laptops stacked on top of each other; They appeal to a more household/personal use market (Natives). Markforged has some very impressive printers such as the Onyx One and Onyx Pro, they can presumably print a structure with carbon fiber (Natives). Their printers are on the slightly bigger scale and can do a little more than the household ones from Formlabs. Now those are two fields in which 3D printing companies operate, 3D Systems appeals to both of those fields. They have the option for anyone to send them a model that they made, and they’ll print it out and send it back to you, with a fee of course (Systems). Not only do they make models that you send them they also have guidebooks on buying printers and how to operate them. Companies such as 3D Systems will appeal to a wider market and continue to grow as 3D printing is becoming common practice in today’s industrial market (Systems).

As you can see 3D printing has come a long way since 1980 and from the looks of things it will stick around for years to come. There are numerous products coming out of 3D printers. Even mini-homes that are being built in 24-hours and sold for $4000 but they are only about 600-800 sq. ft. (Bendex). Two companies, New Story and ICON, plan on building more homes like the one mentioned to house approximately 1.3 billion people who reside in the slums of El Salvador. There are many automotive industries that are seeking parts made by 3D printers to test the durability and function of the parts (Jackson). Imagine your next meal being prepared by a 3D printer, yes, it is being done. Amazingly there is 3D printed jewelry that is becoming a big hit today. Accessories and clothing are being 3D printed. Iris van Herpen has had a collection produced and shown on the catwalks of Paris and Milan (Jackson). The selection of items to have 3D printed are endless.

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