3D printing is a process for making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many successive thin layers of a material. It is possible to 3D print in thermoplastics, thermoplastic composites, pure metals, metal alloys, ceramics and various forms of food. 3D printing has the potential to radically transform many design, production and logistics processes.
3D printing provides innovation within many disciplines, particularly sciences, where visualizing structures through modeling is of value for everything from DNA, proteins and molecules, down to subatomic structures within physics. There is also potential for architecture, art, design, history, culinary and many other areas. The ability of students to create physical objects related to their coursework opens new doors for learning and creativity.
- Create or find an existing digital model of the object you want to print. Create models using computer-aided design (CAD) software or a 3D scanner. Sites such as Thingiverse, yeggi.com and Shapeways.com have existing models you can download.
- Check with your institution or 3D printer manufacturer for tips for testing your file prior to printing. Get an estimate of printing cost and time. Consider whether printing a draft quality proof-of-concept object is justified given the time/cost of your project.
- Correct errors and/or make adjustments to your file and print settings as necessary.
- Remove object from printer and trim away any supports.
- Printers vary widely in quality and cost. Make sure your project is viable given the resources you have available.
- Be sure to account for printing time and available 3D printing capacity when assigning 3D printing projects.
- The highly mechanical nature of 3D printers dictates regular maintenance and troubleshooting which can result in significant downtime, especially when using cutting edge technology.
- 3D digital models often have errors that complicate the printing process. It is helpful to be familiar with 3D modeling software to troubleshoot potential printing difficulties.
- High end 3D printers are expensive and may require specially ventilated facilities.
Barnatt, Christopher. “3D Printing.” Explaining the Future: A Guide to the Future. Explaining the Future. 22 Apr. 2016. Web. 30 June 2016. <http://explainingthefuture.com/3dprinting.html>.
“MakerBot Thingiverse.” Thingiverse. MakerBot Industries, LLC, 2016. Web. 29 June 2016. <https://www.thingiverse.com/>.
Owens, Tim. “7 Things You Should Know About 3D Printing.” ELI 7 Things You Should Know. EDUCAUSE, 10 July 2012. Web. 30 June 2016. <https://library.educause.edu/resources/2012/7/7-things-you-should-know-about-3d-printing>.
“Search Engine for 3D printable Models.” yeggi.com. yeggi, n.d. Web. 30 June 2016. <Yeggi.com>.
“Shapeways.” Shapeways.com. Shapeways, Inc., 2016. Web. 30 June 2016. <Shapeways.com>.