How does a 3D printer work: from printed text to printing houses

3D printer

Today we can safely say that without modern 3D printing technology, it is impossible to imagine modern civilization, and it is hardly possible to name another so rapidly developing technology.

By pages of history

According to many computer experts, the ancestor of 3D printing and the developer of the first more conventional printer was the Englishman Babbage. In 1822, he proceeded to create the so-called “large difference machine”, designed to produce calculations and print them out. Like everything great, Babbage’s ideas were far ahead of their time and, 20 years later, never realized, the project was closed.

The Babbage MachineLarge difference machine Babbage

More than 100 years passed before the second attempt was made this time to create a printer. The first black and white printer was released in 1953. Twenty-one years passed and IBM created the first inkjet color printer. Today, the number of printers in offices and other organizations is second only to the number of computers.

In the second half of the 1980s, another technological breakthrough was taking place. In 1986, American Chek Hull formulated the concept of three-dimensional printing, and two years later his compatriot Scott Crump on its basis developed FDM-forming technology through the decomposition of melting material. All current three-dimensional printers are due to appear to her.

How does a 3D printer work?

Compared to a print printer that transfers electronic text to flat paper, a 3D printer deals with three-dimensional information. In a word, he recreates an object as it is.

3D printer

How does a 3D printer print? First, a digital model of the object on the computer is created using a special program. It sort of “dismembers” the model into layers, after which the printer enters into action. Like its printing “colleague,” the 3D printer has its own ink, though consisting of a composite powder.

About 10 years ago, only one kind of “ink” – plastic ABC was used. Today they are already more than a hundred – polypropylene, concrete, cellulose, nylon, metal powders, gypsum, chocolate and many others.

Ink supply to printer

During operation, the raw material is converted into a mass, which is applied layer by layer on the working surface through a special nozzle. After applying the next layer on top of it, an adhesive coating can be applied, then again the “ink” layer. And so until the complete reproduction of the object. You can see the work of the 3D printer on video.

But this is the general principle of the 3D printer, the so-called rapid prototyping technology. On its basis, several methods have been developed. Here are just some of them.

Stereolithography (SLA)

One of the first 3D printing technologies. As a building material, a mixture of a liquid polymer and a curing agent is used, which is somewhat similar to epoxy resin. Polymerization and subsequent solidification of the mixture occurs under the action of an ultraviolet laser.

The model is formed by thin layers on a mobile substrate with holes attached to a microlift-elevator, which moves up or down to the depth of one layer. During immersion in a liquid polymer, the laser beam is fixed in places to be cured. Once one layer is formed, the workpiece will rise (lower).


Multi-jet modeling

This technology is developed in the company 3D Systems. It has a lot in common with inkjet technology. The peculiarity of the device and the principle of operation of this 3D printer is that several (up to several hundred) nozzles are arranged here, arranged in rows on the print head.

The ink becomes liquid by heating and, after layerwise application to the work surface, freezes at room temperature. The head moves in a horizontal plane, and the vertical displacement as each new layer is formed is carried out by lowering the working table.

Selective laser sintering (SLS)

A real breakthrough was the introduction of 3D-printing technologies into metalworking. How does a 3D printer work on metal ? A feature of this technology is that the working fluid function is performed by a composite powder consisting of particles with a diameter of 50 to 100 μm. The powder is applied horizontally by uniform thin layers, and at the final stage certain areas are sintered by a laser beam.

One of the main advantages of laser sintering is a unique economy and almost complete waste-free operation in comparison with traditional mechanical methods of metal processing – drilling, milling, cutting, casting and others, and minimal finishing.

A necessary condition for laser sintering is a nitrogen medium with a minimum oxygen content, since the process takes place under high-temperature conditions.

Laser sintering

This list of technologies for 3D printing is far from being limited. It is supplemented by layer-by-layer bonding of films, layer-by-layer fusion, layer-by-layer printing of molten polymer filament, ultraviolet irradiation through a photomask.

What else would you type?

After figuring out how a 3D printer works, it’s time to tell you what you can do with it today. Like fashionable and very comfortable clothes, representatives of various branches of science and industry “try on” themselves. As it turned out, you can print almost everything from consumer goods from plastic, to solar batteries, car bodies , parts for jet engines and medical prostheses.

3D parts of the UAV

On the technology of 3D printing, the eyes and eyes of the military and builders. Not so long ago, a 3D printer developed by order of NASA was delivered aboard the ISS, with the help of which several necessary tools were manufactured in zero-gravity conditions. It is possible that in this way during the future Martian mission, individual parts will have to be manufactured directly on board the spacecraft.

3D printer for the ISS

We also consider the option of erecting Martian houses using 3D printing, for which special building printers will be delivered from the Earth. The basis of “ink” for them will be the Martian soil.

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