There is a lot of misinformation surrounding 3D printing in the media, so we decided to get everyone on the same page and clear some things up. These are the top five things people get wrong about 3D printing:
You have no idea how many times we’ve been asked the following questions: Have you heard about 3D printed guns? Have you 3D printed a gun? Can you print me a gun? Now, the answer to the first question is yes, thank you, we’ve known about it for more than two years now. And the other two are a resounding no. Everyone, meet the liberator, the first fully 3D printable plastic gun, there you have it, it’s possible.
There is active development on the design, but here’s why we don’t need to worry about weapons as much a people think. I mean don’t get me wrong, we should worry about stuff like this but Adrian Bowyer (the founder of the RepRap project) explains it extremely well here:
Water filters for use in the developing world.
Laying blood vessels for tissue engineering.
Even in Prince George, it has assisted in making radiation masks for cancer patients.
In short, the benefits of desktop 3D printing far outweigh the harmful uses just like any other manufacturing technology.
Lot of people have been raving about how fast 3D printing is, but this all depends on your frame of reference. To take an idea from concept to physical prototype, 3D printing is extremely fast. There is no waiting for tooling, changes can be made with extreme ease and haste. BUT it is very slow as a mass manufacturing technology. For example, let’s pretend we manufacture prosthetic duck feet. It’s our first year, and we only have 42 ducks to help, so we’re going to just go for it and 3D print our prosthetics. Now though, it’s our second year of business and we now have over 1000 ducks to help. Traditional manufacturing is going to be our route of choice for that number because it’ll be leaps and bounds faster for the large scale production. Basically printing is great for quick turnaround on prototyping applications and short run production of niche products. Anything else and you’ll want to take a different route.
3) 3rd Power Rule
Tying into the speed equation is also the 3rd power law. It states that as object size increases, print time and cost increase to the 3rd power. So basically if we take an object and we want it twice the size, it’s going to cost 8 times as much and take 8 times as long. But why is that? Well first hint is that we’re working in 3D space and volume is in units cubed, but how are we getting 8 times as much? Well, we’re going twice as far in three different directions so we take 2x2x2 and get 8.
4) Ease Of Use
While it’s improving everyday, and even as we write this, new machines are coming online that are even easier to use, there is no one button machine, yet.
Sorry Staples, no “easy button.”
Most of the cheaper desktop machines come in kit form, which means you have to assemble it yourself, and they require a period of calibration. Our best example is our first Rostock printer took 20 hours to assemble, and then a further 3 months of calibration, upgrades and experimentation to get it to print reliably. Now that being said, the last machine we built was fully ready to go in about 20 hours. There are advancements coming online daily, like auto-leveling and assisted leveling which make the calibration process much easier, but there is still no machine that you can pull out of the box, plug in, hit the button and produce a beautiful print…yet.
5) Part Strength
The last thing we get asked about a lot is part strength. As of right now we can only speak for FDM, and it’s about 30% of the strength of an injection moulded part. Printed parts almost have sort of a grain to them because of the layers. That being said, by treating certain plastics with solvents, (e.g. ABS with acetone) we can bring that strength up to about 80-90% of injection moulded.
If you have any more questions about 3D printing or would like us to come deliver the presentation that this blog post is based off, feel free to contact us. We love hearing from you!
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