An affordable 3D printer is a rapid prototyping machine that creates a perfect three dimensional model that closely emulates the feel, appearance, and functionality of prototype layer by layer from STL (stereolithography) data. Objects are built up carefully inside these printers as thin layers, one upon another thereby resulting in a working model.
Although these printers have low resolution as compared to the traditional rapid prototyping machines, but still this difference is not that apparent. This technology is widely used in footwear, aerospace, architecture, jewelry, industrial design, medical and dental industries.
How do 3D printers work?
The revolutionary rapid prototyping or 3D printing concept started with a simple CAD drawing. This detailed drawing is fed into a hi-tech inkjet type printer that can build 3D models and objects using stratified layers. The 3D printer can translate the images into instructions and the machine creates a visible pattern that replicates the CAD drawing. Rapid prototyping streamlines and simplifies the process for creating industrial prototypes and physical models.
The basic desktop 3D printer can produce individual layers that are much thinner than even a standard piece of paper. Usually each layer is about 100 microns thick, so the time for creating an entire prototype can take a significant time. However, the process is much more efficient and faster than traditional model-making techniques.
Currently, 3D printing machines can construct objects with the help of layers of sawdust, glue, metal, ceramic, carbon fiber, plastic, resin and various other substances. 3D printers that use resin require a light or a UV based system to cure the material. New printers are now being developed that can print on cloth, vinyl or substitutes of human tissue. All these materials are housed in the cartridge of the printer and is extruded with the help of tightly focused nozzles.
Characteristics of 3D printers
They’re portable: 3D printers are compact and small so they can be easily used in office environment. They are a much better option than rapid prototyping machines that might need a separate chamber and also consume more power.
They’re easy to use.
As 3D printers are smaller in size, they entail much less training as compared to rapid prototyping machines. In advanced printers, you can even select many build parameters and can also change them in a fly.
3D printers are affordable and have low maintenance cost. These days you can have these printers in the range of $350.00 to $40,000. Some hi-tech 3D printers are expensive but they offer a much better output within a short time.
Benefits of Rapid Prototyping using an Affordable 3D Printer
- The accuracy and fast production time of the finished prototype are two main benefits of 3D printers. Now creating a one-off model is no more time-consuming and tedious process. Today anyone can create a prototype using a pre-made CAD drawing.
- Creates realistic prototypes that closely emulate the properties of target design. You can also identify design errors in advance and refine your designs.
- Architectural models can be updated or recreated quickly using a CAD image. Once the printed model is complete, its edges can be filed, painted and tweaked to give this model a traditional appearance.
- You can get quick feedback from your clients. You can also save time and cost by getting rid of designing, printing and gluing together different parts made using different materials.
3D printers are already being used by engineers, designers, architects, and medical professionals. The streamlines production process makes an affordable 3D printer a time-saving alternative to traditional molding methods that need complex manual processes. Artistic modeling techniques and multi-process prototyping technology is now being replaced by 3D printers that can easily interpret and recreate digital design in moments.