How do Engineers Use 3D Printers?

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How do Engineers Use 3D Printers?

Undoubtedly, 3D Printing has revolutionized many industries, most notably engineering. Also referred to as additive manufacturing or rapid prototyping, the technology works by creating three-dimensional objects through the addition of material in successive layers.

While the technology was developed 30 years ago, it has increasingly become a household necessity for realizing a more sustainable future. The objects are designed using Computer-Aided Design software packages like Sketchup, TinkerCAD, ANSYS and Fusion360. This software is pretty handy when simulating complex products as they help engineers visualize the entire project before producing it. As such, you can adjust, improve, and correct errors you may have missed when creating the 3D design. 

What’s more, 3D technology enables users to find the best way to design a concept and show it to end-users for additional input. 

How 3D Printing Works

Some objects are too complex for traditional manufacturing or prototyping processes. After the design process, the 3D printer helps digital slice the model for Printing. It is a critical and complex step humans can’t conceptualize.

The slicing process involves breaking down the process into different layers before sending it for Printing. A unique slicer program like Astroprint or CraftWare is used to create a lattice structure inside the model for additional stability.

It is this feature that makes 3D printers excel; they can print on low-density materials and produce solid materials by adding pockets of air. Slicer software also adds support columns where required.

Since materials such as plastic can’t be laid down in the air, the columns enable the printer to bridge such gaps. The columns are removed and the data sent to the printer for Printing. Then, the printer produces the model according to the specific instructions of the splicer program depending on the type of printer.

Types of 3D Printers

Direct 3D printers

Direct 3D Printing, for example, uses a technology similar to inkjet Printing, where the nozzle uses a back and forth, and up and down motion to dispense thick waxes that solidify to form a new cross-section of the 3D object.

Binder Printer

The binder 3D printing allows the nozzle to apply liquid glue and fine dry powder on the printing surface. When they combine they form the printed layer. Binder 3D printers make two passes to create the layers. The initial pass deposits a thin layer of powder, and the second pass uses a nozzle to apply the binder.

Benefits of 3D Printing in Engineering

The primary benefit of 3D Printing is that it allows rapid prototyping of anything; your only limitation is your imagination. Engineers have particularly leveraged on this advantage to: 

Optimize Designs

Engineers can maximize the performance of a mechanical system by improving its structure. 3D Printing provides a lot of possibilities when it comes to topology and design optimization. It enables engineers to find a compromise between weight, strength, and production cost for mechanical parts.

With a 3D file, an engineer can print parts regardless of their complexity. Keep in mind, the most difficult part of any project is finding an appropriate design, especially when working on technical projects with complex geometries. 

Save Time

Additive manufacturing saves time as you can obtain proof of concepts before proceeding to manufacture the product. Testing and creation of designs is significantly accelerated as well as the assembly process.

Also, mechanical 3D Printing allows the production of a batch of parts that traditionally comprise many parts. This is because with this cutting edge technology, you can reduce welding and assembling steps.

Ability to Choose Printing Material

Online 3D printing service like Sculpteo allows users to choose a suitable material for the project. Whether you are using plastic, resin, metal, or resin materials, you are not restricted as to the type of material you can use for 3D Printing. 

With Sculpteo, you only need to upload the 3D file, choose the material and finishing option, and allow the software to perform the remaining tasks.

Improve Supply Chain

With 3D printing warehouses no longer need to keep physical inventories of spare parts. The technology manufacturers only need to set up a digital catalog that enables them to create parts on-demand.

As such, the manufacturer only needs to have a 3D file ready and print it using a 3D printing service. This system is particularly useful for automotive and robotic engineers who keep the physical stock of spare parts.

3D models of the components require less physical space than the actual parts eliminating the need for large warehouses. The technology also gives engineers freedom regarding the number of elements that can be produced. 

It shortens the supply chain by letting engineers choose the precise size of the batch. Also, they can create intricate projects and skip the assembly process as the objects can be printed in one part.

Engineering Projects Using 3D Printing

Automotive Industry

Engineers use 3D Printing to develop car parts and car designs. The accuracy and ability to use complex materials like metal enable the development of 3D printed mechanical parts.

Aeronautics

3D Printing enables engineers to develop and manufacture complex aeronautical parts like a GE Aviation fuel nozzle. The resulting component is five times stronger and more durable. 

This is because the cutting edge technology addresses issues regarding quality assurance processes like durability and strength by isolating, analyzing, correcting, and implementing the modification on the new version. 3D Printing hastens the quality assurance process by months, thus saving on time.

Biomedical Engineering

The application of 3D Printing in healthcare provides a range of benefits: customization and personalization of drugs, equipment, and medical products. The most common applications of the technology in the healthcare industry include:

Visualization: Doctors can now use data from a CT scan to print an image of what they will be operating on. Such models help them prepare for complex surgeries. One such example is the 3D printed heart model used in a life-saving procedure of a young patient at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles

3D Bioprinting tissues: The technology has also helped doctors construct human tissue in a lab, implant it on the patient’s body, and watch it grow.

About the Author Dan

Just a random guy who likes to build things. Providing tool knowledge, appliance/device testing tips, and DIY project info in an easy-to read & non-intimidating style.