3D printing is experiencing a boom, and it is a manufacturing term you’ve probably stumbled upon before. But what is 3D printing actually, and how does it relate to KREATIZE? We interviewed two KREATORS who are deeply familiar with this technology to provide you with a simple overview.
Subtractive & Additive Manufacturing – Where Does 3D Printing Fit?
Before we get into 3D printing, it is important to know that in manufacturing, there are both subtractive and additive processes.
The difference between these two can be most easily understood by looking at their math roots (e.g – and +). Subtractive being the process of shaping a specific object/material (e.g. block, rod, metal) through a process of removal that involves cutting, grinding or drilling to manufacture a part.
Subtractive manufacturing can be done manually, or more commonly by computer numerical control (CNC). Under this umbrella term, there are various types of manufacturing processes, such as CNC milling, turning, waterjet cutting and laser cutting.
Additive manufacturing, in contrast to subtractive, makes use of CNC tools to build objects by adding material layer by layer, with every layer bonding to the previous set layer until a part is complete. Stereolithography (SLA) , Selective laser sintering (SLS) Fused deposition modeling (FDM) Material jetting, Binder jetting, Selective laser melting (SLM), Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS),and Electron beam melting (EBM) are examples of additive processes.
3D printing is synonymous to additive manufacturing, as the repeatability, precision and material range of 3D printing has expanded to a level where it is feasible for industrial-production.
Is 3D Printing New To Manufacturing?
3D printing is often mistaken for a fad or relatively new invention, however this isn’t accurate. It may have only been noticed by the general public in the past decade or so, but has been used by designers and engineers since the 1980s. The first patent for the 3D printing process of Stereolithography was actually issued in 1986.
The spike in popularity for 3D printing over the past decade is due to more accessibility, in part because of a substantial price decrease for 3D printing services, and companies developing “desktop” versions of what were before industrial-sized machines, coupled with an expanded service offering.
As a result, 3D printing has created plenty of opportunities and fuelled innovations in all kinds of industries. Not only do more traditional branches such as aerospace, the automotive industry and the medical and dental industry rely on it, but also more trend sensitive industries like fashion, architecture and food industry industries.
Mike Rekus from our HQ in Berlin and Karol Halas from our office in Wroclaw pulled the curtain on this technology, and provided us with insights on everything related to 3D printing.
3D Printing – Our KREATORS Explain
As stated before, 3D printing is a term which refers to a group of processes, which, opposed to conventional procedures such as milling or turning, create parts by adding material, rather than removing it (e.g subtractive). This technology allows engineers to manufacture prototypes at early development stages with far less resources, which in return produces far less waste.
“Simply put, it is an Additive Technology, as it adds the material layer by layer, thus creating the desired shape from scratch,” explained Halas, who is a mechanical engineering manager at KREATIZE.
“It’s important to note, that during the additive layering, multiple physical and chemical processes take place”, said Rekus, who works as a success engineer at KREATIZE.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolitography and Selective Laser Sintering are a few of the multiple processes which fall into the category of 3D printing. FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) is a popular process, and one of the most emblematic as far as how it works.
“Material in the form of a filament (long thermoplastic fiber) is transported constantly to a numerically controlled nozzle, where it is heated up, plastifies and then deposited on top of the previous layer, where it cools down and solidifies back,” explained Halas.
After printing the 2D layer, the nozzle moves up and then prints another layer on top, which is repeated until the desired 3 dimensional part is created.
“Of course that’s just a simplified example – different processes involve lasers, UV light and different materials”, added Halas.
Why is 3D Printing Such A Game Changer?
It is a manufacturing process that is bringing many advantages to builders. It gives creators more room to innovate and provides more agility for product development when compared to other conventional methods.
“One of the most important advantages of 3D printing is the freedom of design. As opposed to traditional methods, in which assembly requires multiple steps, it allows for construction and printing in a single step,” said Mike Rekus, who works as success engineer for KREATIZE. Further adding that 3D-printing works with polymers, which are easy to handle. Additionally it lessens the weight of hardware parts, which is a factor of growing importance in fields such as in aerospace and automotive industries.
Of course, there are many other important advantages of 3D printing. One of these is that it makes the individual development stages for manufacturing parts much easier
“Nowadays it is really important, especially for early part development stages, because it lets engineers get the first physical form of their design with more ease,” said Halas. “The prototyping costs are dramatically lower than for parts which are manufactured with conventional processes, when compared to 3D printing, ” he concluded.
It allows parts to be redesigned, printed and tested without having to use rigid technological processes. Additionally, setting up a machine suitable for 3D printing is much faster, as they do not require any special tools, when compared to other industrial machines used for conventional processes.
3D Printing = Limitless Possibilities
As mentioned before, 3D printing is being used by more and more sectors. This is partially because of the limitless possibilities that it provides. The medical sector, for example, relies on it to manufacture hearing aids, implants, and personalised prosthetics. The aerospace and the automotive industry use it to manufacture innovative parts, and prototyping.
“With 3D printing almost everything is possible – from simple parts to structures that would not be possible with regular technologies,” said Halas. “The range in which 3D printing is used is really wide – the only limitation here is the designer’s imagination. You can print both highly functional prototypes of very sophisticated machine parts, as well as art, figurines, daily-use products and much more”, said Halas.
How is 3D printing relevant to KREATIZE?
“It is an important manufacturing process for KREATIZE, as it is a process that helps us deliver on our slogan: Manufacturing the world loves,” said Halas. “ It enables our customers to create better designs and lets them explore different areas for their projects.”
KREATIZE often provides advice to hardware startups and established companies on ways that they can bring their products to the market with more efficiency. In the case of startups, many often do not have the resources to deal with manufacturing themselves. 3D printing can be a good solution for the production of prototypes in a cost-efficient and fast manner, which is advantageous for both startups and established companies wishing to speed up their product development processes. However, this cost advantage can be a real game changer for hardware startups.
“We recommend it to startups as it helps them make their products market ready quickly, without having to rely on economic resources and having to deal with manufacturing themselves”, said Rekus.
How does KREATIZE give other companies access to 3D printing?
One of the ways 3D printing has become more accessible is through cloud manufacturing. The plug-and-play solution that KREATIZE offers businesses who seek on-demand manufacturing services for their custom parts.
“Our customers are given access to our large and diverse cloud manufacturing network’s machines,” explained Halas, which includes several world-class 3D printing providers.
With over 200 vetted partners offering their services in KREATIZE’s cloud, customers can benefit from a wide range of services, such as the latest 3D printing technologies.
“The engineers and customers working with our plattform can select the desired manufacturing process, get advice from us and can request a custom part which is suitable for 3D printing,” said Rekus. “ We can then start the analysis to see how long the part would take to print and how much it will cost to manufacture. It is a very simple process.”
Bottom line: 3D printing is a steadily growing seamless manufacturing process and cost efficient way of creating custom parts. By using KREATIZE’s cloud manufacturing services your company can easily access the endless possibilities of 3D printing.
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