Engineering & Technology

The game changer “3D Printing technology” for Rapid Prototyping

A brief overview about FDM 3D Printers

Production sector has always been a cosmic area to explore and ever since the evolution of man-kind, people has been working on the conventional methods like casting, forging and different machining processes. Diversification of products stimulated technological invention and adaption of the same by the industries. This helped in gaining momentum in production hence reducing time as well as cost of production.

  • From the late 17th Century, the revolutionary Industry 1.0 starting setting its impact in changing the methods of production. Utilisation of power from steam and water became effective and the invention of Steam Engine by James Watt marked a substantial effect in the first industrial revolution.

 

  • Industry 2.0 referring to the period between 1870 and 1914 witnessed advancements in terms of technology and this can be marked as a crucial time when Industries saw a huge boom in terms of production rate. Major machineries were driven electrically hence decreasing the real time for production and human labour.

 

  • The late 20th century brought about digital revolution with Industry 3.0 and computer integration of machineries started taking control over the conventional ones.

 

  • Industry 4.0, the fourth aeon of modernisation in terms of technology incorporated Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) which led to synergistic integration of sophisticated software in heavy duty machineries.  AI, IOT, Big Data, Machine learning being the counterpart the emphasis was mainly on build Smart Manufacturing Systems equipped to self learn and control parameters.

 

  • 3D printers proved to be the game changer in this new era. 3D printing technology forms an integral part of the Rapid Prototyping technology which helped to examine products before it was sent off to the market, especially in case of mass production. Miniature prototypes of products were being made with the aid of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software.

3D Printing

In the wake of Industry 4.0, the concept of additive manufacturing revolutionized the conventional methods of material removal from the stock as in case of CNC machines, hence largely optimizing the requirement of raw material. Several variety of 3D printer including Stereo lithography (SLA) types 3D printers, Digital Light Processing (DLP) Fused deposition Modelling (FDM) Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Selective Laser Melting (SLM), Electronic Beam Melting (EBM), Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM), Binder Jetting (BJ) catered to the need of manufacturing desired products in terms of strength, surface finish, etc. The most important point to be noted is the elimination of chip formation in the whole process and as a whole 3D printing emerged as a “Green Technology”.

FDM works wonder to prototype designs:

The Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) 3D printers are one of the predominant types of 3D printers. With an ease to produce products layer by layer following bottom up model any CAD model can be realized into physical product. The filament, thermoplastic (usually PVA or ABS) is melt and extruded through a small nozzle which has mobility in three dimensions over a build platform usually of glass. A CAD file in .stl format is uploaded in the system which is read by the motherboard of the printer. Usually a micro controller serves the purpose to drive the process, by guiding a set of motors that moves the print head in three dimensions. The movement of the print head is according to the digital design file uploaded. Layers of deposited material can be achieved as low as 100 microns and this technology has been proved effective in producing fairly strong objects. Mastering the art of 3D printing can be as easy as to extract or create a .stl file and uploading the same in the setup. Few useful sources to create/extract files for 3D Printing can be easily accessed, viz.

  • Fusion360
  • Hackerspace
  • Thingiverse
  • TinkerCad.
  • Ultimaker

Further equipped with a 3D scanner the printing process can become more simple while creating prototypes of any object. Being one of the most promising technologies, 3D printers can effortlessly create any product that already exists as well as those that have never ever been made before.

The potential of the technology extents its horizon to every sphere of manufacturing from medical PPE kits to building homes. In fact the use of this technology can go as far as your imagination.

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