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3D Printer Discussion

3D Printer Discussion

Free eBook

Download for free the book Low-cost 3D Printing for Science, Education and Sustainable Development. It offers a practical guide to 3D printing with an overview of current research and 3D printing uses in science education. This book was complied and edited by the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP).

3D Printing is Booming

3D Printing is showing a lot of promise as it moves from the engineering lab to the home. If it follows the standard process, it soon will be over hyped as the new savior, followed by disappointment when people understand its limitations. We're going to try to cover both the promise and the limitations so you can get into 3D printing with some realistic expectations.

Yes, 3D printing will be a boon. Actually, it already has been a boon, allowing everyone from engineers to dentists to quickly and cheaply create a 3D model of everything from atoms to teeth.

However, it is going to be a while until 3D printing really takes off. First, even though you can print that knob you need in a pinch, it often is not as strong, nor can it be made as cheaply as other plastic manufacturing techniques.

Here's an interesting article from Wired which talks about the state of still active 3D printing patents.


One of the biggest limitations of many current printers is that they cannot print plastic in space but rather have to build up from the base of a print to support any overhanging parts of the object. So when you first see your object after it has been printed, don't be surprised when you see it has a large number of extra scaffolding, so to speak, supporting parts of your object.

Furthermore, most printed objects will often require a little bit of clean up before it really starts looking like the object you wanted. It can be as simple as removing some tailings from a string of plastic hanging on as the print head moves to another area, to actual sanding or whittling to adjust and smooth the surface.

Finally, until someone develops a color printer, most every print will be made up of just one or two colors. But don't worry, with a little work you can repaint the plastic to make your object look extremely realistic.

Also, depending on the type of plastic you use, it may not withstand the heat in your car on a hot summer day nor the force of an impact in the dead of winter. The plastic used in 3D printing needs to be able to be softened at a relatively lower temperature than some injection molded plastics.

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