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3D Printing

What is 3D Printing ?

Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes. -- Wikipedia

This allows you to take an object that you design (or download) on the computer and literally "print" it and make it into a physical object.

Why would you want to print something ?

Getting plastics moulded, or metals cast, can be a prohibitively expensive process when you are unsure of your design or you will only ever need a few of the item, this is where 3D printing has really advanced the state of the art, allowing for fast and cheap production of one off items, whether this is prototyping a new design, replacing a broken part on an obscure or discontinued item, or a one off piece of art.

Can it print anything ?

Whilst there are great advances in the types of materials that can be printed, and research is continuing all the time, in practice there are only a handful of materials that can commonly be printed, these are certain plastics and a limited set of metals.

Is this only for big industry ?

Whilst big industry has embraced 3D printing in many areas, there is also a large and growing enthusiast community, and increasingly consumer oriented printers are hitting the market. e.g. the RepRapPro Ormerod and the Maplin Velleman as examples.

Whilst you can buy pre and part assembled printers from many places, there is also a very active community of Do-It-Yourself printer designs from the RepRap community. These are OpenSource designs, all of the plans are open and free to download, and many of the components of the designs can themselves be printed on any 3D printer. There is a massive community, and you can readily purchase starter kits, components, and enhancements on the web.

How can I get to use one ?

There are many commercial services around that will print your design and post it to you, some are listed in the References page.

The Hackspace also maintains it's own 3D Printer, this is a RepRap Mendel style design, and can print in PLA and ABS plastics. The printer will be brought along to any relevant workshops and tech events that we hold, and is available to print any items that members would like printed in return for a small donation to cover the cost of materials used.

- Last change January 07, 2014, at 03:25 PM
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