Chattanooga startup wants to 3D print your future house

Chattanooga startup wants to 3D print your future house

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Chattanooga startup wants to 3D print your future house

Branch Technology uses an extruder attached to a Kuka Robotics arm to 3D print.

For Platt Boyd, inspiration struck in the way aspiring writers envision their Great American Novels taking shape: late at night, after a drink.

In Boyds case, however, the drink was just a caffeinated beverage. And while he had pen in hand, that pen was the 3Doodler, an instrument for creating freeform, 3D-printed objects. Boyd drew a 3D matrix.

Something that weighed a half an ounce supported 18 pounds of books, he says.

At that point Boyd knew he was on to something. Roughly a year and a half later, hes now the founder and CEO ofBranch Technology, a Chattanooga-based startup that thinks it can change the future of building construction with 3D printing.

Modern buildings are always systems that come together to form a composite assembly, Boy says. Were saying: how little can we 3D print and allow these other materials to become the strength of the wall assembly?

Branch Technology calls its building strategy cellular fabrication. As opposed to conventional 3D printing where thermoplastics are heated, then cooled, and then layered to create a structure, Branch uses a freeform 3D printer that solidifies building materialin Branchs case, a mixture of ABS plastic and carbon fiberin open space. The printers extruder head is attached to 12-and-a-half-foot robotic arm supplied by Kuka Robotics, which in turn travels on a 33-foot rail. Using this system, Boyd says Branch Technology can print a 3D matrix 25-feet wide by 58-feet long. These open matrices printed by Branch serve as an internal support structure, over top of which foam insulation, concrete, and other, conventional construction materials are layered.

We have an algorithm that can generate geometry and robotic code to create this matrix, he says. That open matrix is very lightweight. We fit them together like big Lego blocks on site, [and] then you apply construction materials on site to become a wall assembly in the field. If someone sends us a file, a CAD file, then we can produce that wall.

Boyd, anarchitect of 15 years, cut his teeth working for Seay, Seay & Litchfield Architects in Alabama, where he and his fellow partners mainly did architectural work for universities, the Department of Defense, and a few house contractors. He left the firm in May 2014, and two months ago he moved north to Chattanooga as part of theGIGTANK accelerator program, where he unveiled Branch Technology for the first time at GIGTANKs Demo Day.

So far the four-man startup has raised a little more than $900,000 in seed funding, a portion of which came from Boyds own 401K savings. Its now looking for another $1.5 million in funding.

According to Boyd, a 2-and-a-half-pound 3D-printed matrix with spray foam applied can support a little less than 3,000 pounds. But Branch Technologys selling point, he says, is that using these 3D-printed matrices as the starting point for wall assemblies drops construction costs to somewhere between $80 and $140 a square foot. Compare that to the thousands of dollars it sometimes costs to build grand buildings with creative designs, and you have what Boyd believes is his startups most marketable factor.

Its thin-shell concrete construction when its all said and done, he says. On top of those materials you can add whatever interior or exterior finish you want. Outside could be stucco, or brick. Its the real deal.

Perhaps the place for this technology is in the Bay Area, where,as SPUR reported, residential units [are] going for $1,000 per square foot or more in newly constructed buildings in San Franciscos most desirable neighborhoods.

For now, the startup is staying put in Chattanooga, where it plans to put its bold prediction regarding the future of constructionan industryworth $8.5 trillionworldwideto the test. Branch Technology is sponsoring a$10,000 design competitionto construct the first 3D-printed house using the startups cellular fabrication technology. The contest begins in September, and entrants must supply plans to build a house between 1,200 and 1,400 square feet. Branch Technologys partner in the endeavor is Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which was responsible for3D printing a Shelby Cobraat this years North American International Auto Show.

What were focusing on right now are those interior walls and those exterior walls, Boyd says. Eventually, roofs. But you have to see something at scale to see it work, and know that it can withstand the forces of nature.

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Original Prusa i3 MK2 Review It Doesnt Get Any Better

This is where 3D printing is right now, according to Thomas Sanladerer. Read his detailed and enthusiastic Original Prusa i3 MK2 review.

Dont miss:Best Prusa i3 Clone – 24 Prusa i3 Kits vs Prusa i3 MK2

Editors Note:This content originally appeared on Thomas SanladerersYouTube Channeland is licensed as Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike thanks to his supporters onPatreon.

So as it turns out, there are a number of issues with reviewing the Original Prusa i3 MK2.

The first one being, it completely changed my frame of reference for how Ill expect a printer to perform at a given price-point.

And secondly I guarantee you, there will be people calling me a sellout for this, but as always, this review was not influenced by anything other than my own experiences with this machine.I think this is the absolutely best goddamn 3D printer on the market right now.

But lets start out with what this i3 is. If youre at all interested in 3D printing, you will have heard the name Prusa i3 or just i3 or even i4 for various 3D printer kits before, some of which have practically nothing to do with what the i3 actually is.

The thing is, Prusa is actually a person, Josef Jo Prusa from Prague, whose first popular design was the first Prusa Mendel, a cheaper and simpler version of the old Sells Mendel back in the day.

Skip forward to today and youll find an almost 60-person strong team under thePrusa Researchbrand, engineering, and selling, what is now the Original Joseph Prusa i3 MK2 (or Mark 2, I guess). That and only that is what were looking at today.

If youve seen articles like Best Prusa i3 Clone – 24 Prusa i3 Kits vs Prusa i3 MK2, some of those machines are based on the open source i3 design, but thinking youll get the exact same experience from any of the kits from Far East sellers would be like buying thisGoophone i7and expecting it to rival an actual Apple iPhone 7. You get the idea.

Now, of course, the Prusa i3 design is completely open-source, both the hardware and software, and the MK2 comes with a bunch of very clever features for both of them. Lets have a look at what the Original Prusa i3 MK2 promises specs-wise.

So its still the familiar design of the vertical center plate carrying the Z and X axis and the M12 threaded rod base that carries that vertical plate and the Y-axis. This gives the Original Prusa i3 MK2 a slightly plus-sized build volume thats 250mm or 10 inches wide, 210mm deep and 200 mm tall.

Its printing onto the MK42 heated bed, so the solution to all problems apparently, and thats a thick, custom PCB or printed circuit board heater with no aluminum, glass, or anything else required to give it stiffness, since its already made from glass-fiber-reinforced resin, and to get your prints to stick, a thin PEI foil on top. This means it heats up and cools down fairly quickly, actually just as quickly as the hotend if you simply want to print PLA, and also ends up as a very light y-axis setup.

The MK42 heater PCB also has zones with different heating properties that compensate for the bed cooling down faster at its edges, so youll get a very even temperature distribution at any point of the bed, which is important for printing larger prints with high-temp plastics.

And having a genuine all-metal E3D v6.1 hotend in here means that you can throw any material at the printer. Use PLA, ABS, PET, Nylon or particle-filled filaments like wood-infused materials with the stock setup and brass 0.4mm nozzle; or swap in a hardened or coated nozzle for glass or carbon-fiber-reinforced filaments; or add a Volcano heater and nozzle if you want to go, like, really fast.

Or if youd rather end up with even more precise prints instead, grab a finer 0.25mm nozzle. Spoiler alert: it already prints magnificently with the default setup, but of course, the v6.1 does give you a lot of flexibility there.

Next to the hotend, we find something I believe should be mandatory for any 3D printer sold today a bed probe. And not just any probe, but a smaller-than-usual inductive one. Dubbed the P.I.N.D.A. probe (which apparently has a different meaning in Czech), its a custom-made sensor that of course takes up less space and also runs reliably off of 5v directly instead of requiring some sort of voltage level adaption like the larger, standard industrial probes.

The Original Prusa i3 MK2 uses the probe for several tasks. One, it does auto mesh bed leveling, which allows the printer to correct for a slight bow or warp in the build platform instead of just a planar misalignment. Two, if you built the Original Prusa i3 MK2 from the kit version, it also uses the embedded calibration spots in the MK2 heated bed to square up your X and Y axes, so even if you built it with the lower frame super poorly aligned to the rest of the machine, which can be tricky to get perfectly right, your prints will still come out square after you let the printer calibrate itself.

Some reviewers actually left that part out completely. It does square itself up, no need to meticulously adjust it while building it. And both the mesh leveling and the auto-squaring were developed by the Prusa Research team and are now becoming part of the main Marlin firmware as well, so that everyone can use them. Open source for the win!

Youll mostly be operating the printer through this decidedly unspectacular LCD controller. But I do actually like the way the clickwheel knob looks with this flap, which makes it super easy to use with a quick flick of a finger. I know, its the smallest of all details, but those usually do make the biggest differences.

On the LCD, you get all the options for running the calibration routines, and loading and unloading filament. And its all not just dumb scripts, these will actually detect if something doesnt look right, like the heaters not responding properly or the sensor not triggering at the height its expecting it to. So in plain words, if you mess up building the printer or something else fails, the Original Prusa i3 MK2 isnt going to instantly destroy itself.

So the entire machine is driven by a genuine Ultimachine Mini Rambo, which means reliable components for driving heaters and such as well as having a solid fusing concept that will protect the machine should anything ever short out. On the other side behind the frame we find a generic power supply without a fan, which does get warm to the touch during regular use.

Whats awesome here is that it has this cover on its connector side, and this, in fact, also comes preinstalled even on the kit. You will not need to wire up mains voltage into your machine, you simply plug in your power cord into the fused IEC connector and the other side into the Mini Rambo mainboard. Thats awesome! And the frame also gets grounded properly by having the power supply attached to it, and even stiffened up by having it brace the vertical frame against the subframe.

One thing about the entire wiring situation that stands out is that the most strained wire bundles, the ones going to the extruder and to the heated bed, actually include a piece of 3 mm Nylon filament to keep them from kinking and wearing out from repeatedly bending in the same spot. And short of using an actual drag chain, thats what i think is one of the best ways of taking care of such a wire bundle.

So if youre deciding to build the Original Prusa i3 MK2 yourself, you should plan for a good five hours of assembly fun. And it was actually quite enjoyable. If you want to see my entire assembly process, check out thelivestream recordinghere. It took me quite a bit longer, but then again, I was also trying to entertain about 500 people at the same time.

The manual takes you through each step of the assembly, and then through the automatic calibration, and shows you how to prepare your own prints. While the pictures in the printed version arent particularly great, you can also pull up the additional online guide alongside it and augment the printed one with the images there.

Now, Jo Prusa actually sent me two machines: one assembled, one as a kit. The assembled one actually came with a bit of shipping damage; it looked like the bed shipping lock came loose, broke its belt mount, and tore the LCD case off the frame. The latter only required a pair of zip ties to fix, and the belt mount, well, I used the part from the kit for that and then used the already assembled Original Prusa i3 MK2 to print a replacement part. But obviously, Prusa Research would just ship you the replacement part no problem.

So with both machines assembled, it turns out they actually perform absolutely identically. If it werent for the signed frame, Id have no way to tell them apart other than the serial number.

You get a testing protocol with each machine; on the kit, they hook up the components on a dummy setup, for the assembled one, they actually test all components in the printer itself, as to how each part actually performs compared to how it should perform.

And boy, do these MK2s perform well. Let me just show you the first real print I did on the assembled Original Prusa i3 MK2.

This frog was printed live on stream, using the supplied sample GCode and Fillamentum Rapunzel Silver filament. And it looks absolutely perfect. There is literally nothing about this print that I could criticize, and thats Ultimaker-level quality straight out of the box!

But what good would a single demo print be if you couldnt print your own stuff this well? Well, turns out you can do just that. So software-wise, Prusa Research are providing a full installer for Windows and Mac OSX, and instructions on how to set up the tools if youre using GNU/Linux, and their software package includes everything from drivers, a preconfigured slicer, a printer host, a Netfabb installer, a color print tool as well as a firmware updater.

Lets go through those one by one: Drivers! The Original Prusa i3 MK2 still shows up as a serial port when you plug it into any USB port, so you can use it with any printer host, be it on a full computer or a Raspberry Pi with Octoprint or any other cloud printing solution. However, it also identifies straight-up as a 3D printer to Windows 10 and, I believe, also to Windows 8.1, so you can use the integrated 3D Builder app to print things or print directly from professional CAD tools like Solidworks without even needing to ever touch a separate slicer or 3D printer host.

That is pretty awesome, I think, and other than some 3D Systems and Stratasys machines, I dont know of any other 3D printer that allows you to work that way yet. Basically, you get the Original Prusa i3 MK2 to show up as a printer device, you get a print queue for it and all applications that support the Windows 3D printer interface will be able to use it directly. Very, very nice.

But of course, you can still use the traditional way of exporting your model as an STL file and taking that through a slicer. You get a pre-configured version of Slic3r, which is actually a newer and improved version compared to what you can officially download.

This includes a full profile for the printer, for various layer heights and after-market nozzle sizes heres where that smaller 0.25mm nozzle comes in and for a bunch of different materials, covering all the basic ones from PLA, ABS, PET, over Taulman T-Glase or Bridge Nylon. All the ones I tried ended up working absolutely perfectly unless, of course, I messed up the settings myself. You can still go in and tweak all of them, its just usually not necessary.

If you prefer a different slicer, say Cura or Simplify3D, you can also download ready-to-go profiles for those from Prusas site.

Now, having a ready-to-rock slicer like this is, in my opinion, one of the easiest and most effective ways to add value to any 3D printer. Because I dont want to mess with tuning in a 3D printer and having my first ten or so print being complete failures, especially after Ive just spent half day assembling it already. And having sort of this one-click solution to slicing available just completely removes that step from the equation, especially if you get profiles that are as well-tuned-in as the ones the Original Prusa i3 MK2 comes with.

Pretty much all of my prints with this machine so far were done with the exact stock profiles and I just dont feel a need to tweak them unless I wanted to add a new material thats not supported out of the box.

One more cool feature Ive been using for years on most of my custom printers is the hotend priming on the bed edge instead of having the slicer draw a skirt around the print for that. Basically, you get a more reliably primed hotend and dont waste a whole bunch of space on your printbed.

Lets move on with the software. You also get a firmware update tool for the Original Prusa i3 MK2, as the firmware is continuously being improved, and, point in case, theyve already had a look at the points where I screwed up in the unboxing and now have the printer tell you not to do those exact things.

Also, there were some performance improvements already, but be honest, I didnt have any issues with the firmware running out of processing power anyways. If youre using the supplied Slic3r install, youll even get a notification on the MK2s LCD before a print if a new firmware is available.

Then, color print! While the Original Prusa i3 MK2 is a single-color 3D printer, theyve included some features to allow you to print in multiple colors by swapping filament mid-print. You can either do this through the LCD controller on any print (which you could also use simply to drop in a fresh spool of filament if your old one runs out) or by inserting color change positions to the ready-to-print GCode file before a print, and at those positions the printer will pause and ask you to swap its filament.

So overall, thats pretty much a flawless experience with the Original Prusa i3 MK2 so far. Now of course, its still a regular FDM-based 3D printer, a very good one, but it still has its limits like any other machine.

I still had one print fail, this ginormous Squid Attack model, which I even scaled down and therefore made it even harder to print. The overhangs on this one were just a bit too extreme and ended up curling up and getting the printer to skip.

Now there are two different run modes you can select on the Original Prusa i3 MK2, power and silent mode. I had the MK2s on silent mode for most of the time, and that really does make them comfortably quiet with the hotend fan as the loudest part.

I guess going with power mode could have made the Squid Attack print go through successfully. Of course, the printer does also get significantly louder, so to make use of that mode, you should definitely have the machine in a room separate from your living room.

So lets recap. The Original Joseph Prusa i3 MK2 is a€739or$845.79kit or an€999or$1,087.79assembled machine that punches way, way above its weight class. While its not your super-streamlined mainstream design 3D printer, it easily outperforms those with a form-follows-function approach, brings many innovative and actually useful features to the table and print like a champ.

Again, the Original Prusa i3 MK2 has the best and most consistent print quality even straight out of the box with zero tuning of any filament-based 3D printer Ive ever seen. Its literally got everything Im looking for in a 3D printer right now. From now on, it will be my new benchmark which other printers will have to measure against when it comes to ease of use, features, and raw print quality.

License: The text ofOriginal Prusa i3 MK2 Review: It Doesnt Get Any BetterbyAll3DPis licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Metal additive manufacturing (3D printing)

Renishaws metal powder bed fusion is an advanced additive manufacturing process that builds complex metal parts direct from 3D CAD data in a variety of metals.

Additive manufacturing is a process of creating a three-dimensional object from a digital file. It is called additive because it generally involves building up thin layers of material, one by one. The technology can produce complex shapes that are not possible with traditional casting and machining methods, or subtractive techniques.

Renishaws metal powder bed fusion is an additive manufacturing technology that uses a high powered ytterbium fibre laser to fuse fine metallic powders together creating functional 3-dimensional parts.

Renishaw applymetal powder bed fusion technology, as classified by ASTM International. The technology, however, is still often referred to as layer melting, metal additive manufacturing, metal 3D printing, laser sintering and metal AM.

The process is digitally driven, direct from sliced 3D CAD data. For each slice of CAD data a thin even layer of fine metal powder is deposited across the build plate, then the selected areas of the powder are precisely melted by the laser. This process is repeated building up, layer by layer, until the build is complete.

Renishaws additive manufacturing systems can build in a range of metals, including titanium alloy Ti6Al4V, cobalt chromium, stainless steel, nickel alloys Inconel 625 and Inconel 718 and aluminium alloy AlSi10Mg.

– the number of items in an assembly can be reduced by designing as a single complex component.

– parts can be manufactured directly without the need for tooling.

– internal channels for conformal cooling, hidden features, thin walls and fine meshes.

from restrictions associated with traditional subtractive and casting manufacturing methods – when combined with applying new design rules.

– only build material where it is required for optimum weight reduction

the additive manufacturing process can be integrated into current manufacturing processes to reduce steps, time to market and cost.

Which industries use additive manufacturing?

The early adopters of additive manufacturing included high-endautomotive,aerospaceandconsumer goodscustomers. Applications are growing across industries with increasing use in dental, medical and tooling. Renishaw have dedicated teams providinghealthcaresolutions.

Advanced metal additive manufacturing is used to produce small numbers of industrial end use parts and an increasing number OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) are adopting it as a complementary technology and integral part of their production processes.

It is foreseeable that additive manufacturing will be integrated across all manufacturing industries.

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What is 3D printing?

3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.

The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.

3D printing is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing which is cutting out / hollowing out a piece of metal or plastic with for instance a milling machine.

3D printing enables you to produce complex (functional) shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods.

It all starts with the creation of a 3D model in your computer. This digital design is for instance a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file. A 3D model is either created from the ground up with3D modeling softwareor based on data generated with a 3D scanner. With a3D scanneryoure able to create a digital copy of an object.

Currently, prices of 3D scanners range from expensiveindustrial grade 3D scannersto$30 DIY scannersanyone can make at home.

3D modeling softwarecome in many forms. Theres industrial grade software that costs thousands a year per license, but also free open source software, likeBlender, for instance. You can find some beginner video tutorials on ourBlender tutorialspage.

3D modeling software are often made to suit the functions of the users industry. This has resulted in the rise of software suited to specific niches. As a result, there are software applications on the market that cater toaerospace or transportationfurniture designorfabrics and fashionamong many others.

For this reason, when you are starting out, the amount of choices can be a bit overwhelming, we recommend starting withTinkercad. Tinkercad is available for free and it works in browsers that support WebGL, for instance Google Chrome. They offer beginner lessons and has a built in option to get your object printed via various3D print services.

When you have a 3D model, the next step is to prepare it in order to make it 3D printable.

You will have to prepare a 3D model before it is ready to be 3D printed. This is what they call slicing. Slicing is dividing a 3D model into hundreds or thousands of horizontal layers and needs to be done withslicing software.

Sometimes a 3D model can be sliced from within a 3D modeling software application. It is also possible that you are forced to use a certain slicing tool for a certain3D printer.

When your 3D model is sliced, you are ready to feed it to your 3D printer. This can be done via USB, SD or Wi-Fi. It really depends on what brand and type 3D Printer you have. When a file is uploaded in a 3D printer, the object is ready to be 3D printedlayer by layer.

Getting started with 3D printing means asking yourself what you would like to learn first. Are you interested in the hardware, or do you want to focus on the end result creating objects? Answering this question could lead you to the decision if whether you should buy apre-assembled 3D Printeror a3D Printer kit.

In case you have a tight budget and you want to start your journey into learning 3D printing, cheap 3D printer kits can be a great starting point. If you are interested in going this route, please read our article aboutcheap 3D printer kits. This article explains what to look for when youre comparingcheap DIY kits.

Besides the examples above, there are a bunch of different elements which will help decide what thebest 3D printeris for you. Will it be used in the classroom? Will it be used for small batch production? For more information, please read our guide:The 30 Best 3D Printers to buy in 2017.

The worldwide 3D printing industry is expected to grow from $3.07B in revenue in 2013 to $12.8B by 2018, and exceed $21B in worldwide revenue by 2020. As it evolves, 3D printing technology is destined to transform almost every major industry and change the way we live, work, and play in the future.

The 3D printing industry encompasses many forms of technologies and materials. When most people think of 3D printing they are thinking of a simple desktop FDM printer but thats not the entire picture. 3D printing can be divided into metal, fabrics, bio and a whole host of other industries. For this reason, its important to see it as a cluster of diverse industries with a myriad of different applications.

In the first half of 2017, Sculpteos state of 3D printing reported its uses in industrial sectors as:

In the third quarter of 2017, Materialise reported increased revenues for their software, medical and manufacturing divisions. The revenue amounted to a $6 million increase in total when compared to the previous year. This is indicative of those very same increasing applications within the industry as the field grows larger.

3D printing is becoming more and more intertwined with the day-to-day operations of businesses. In terms of outlook, CEOs definitely see 3D printing as a benefit. Most expect a 72% rise in spending for 2018 and 55% expect one in 2017. At this stage, most companies are primarily focusing on research and development and prototyping.

The most used materials are plastics, which generally means FFF / FDM are the dominant forms of 3D printing as of 2017 with SLS coming in second. Although, over the years metal printing has been climbing. This is to be expected since there is massive amounts of R and D being put into the metal side of additive manufacturing. Companys like Google and General Electric have been investing in various technologies over the course of the year, possibly having seen the future potential of metal printing.

Applications include rapid prototyping, architectural scale models & maquettes,3D printed prostheticsand movie props.

Other examples of 3D printing would include reconstructing fossils in paleontology, replicating ancient artifacts in archaeology, reconstructing bones and body parts in forensic pathology and reconstructing heavily damaged evidence acquired from crime scene investigations.

Educators and students have long been using 3D printers in the classroom. 3D printing enables students to materialize their ideas in a fast and affordable way.

3D printer manufacturers have taken up a more direct role in education. Companies often undertake programs to promote technologies. These programs serve as a cheaper way for schools to make 3D printers available for use in classes.

Programs such asCreate Education Project(funded by Ultimaker) enable schools to integrate additive manufacturing technologies into their curriculum for essentially no cost. The project lends a 3D printer to schools in exchange for either a blog post about the teachers experience of using it or a sample of their lesson plan for class. This allows the company to show what 3D printers can do in an educational environment.

Similarly, certain companies provide lesson plans to schools, teaching kids how to use (and sometimes build) them. This is important as many schools may not have anyone on staff with abundant experience in this field.

Similarly, many educational companies such as Kidesign partner up with printer manufacturers to create projects likeKiddevillewith very specific aims in mind. This project is a collaborative design project where students designs elements of a model of a city. Over the course of these kinds of projects, teachers guide them through research, development and printing. Such programs give a much more specific goal and a level of focus that regular classes dont have.

Whileadditive manufacturing-specific degrees are a fairly new advent, universities have long been using 3D printers in other disciplines. There are manyeducational courses one can taketo engage with 3D printing. Universities offer courses on things that are adjacent to 3D printing like CAD and 3D design, which can be applied to 3D printing at a certain stage.

In terms of prototyping, many university programs are turning to printers. There are specialisations in additive manufacturing one can attain through architecture or industrial design degrees. Printed prototypes are also very common in the arts, animation and fashion studies as well.

Research labs in a diverse range of vocations are employing 3D printing for functional use. While most studies are still employing the printers for models, medical and aerospace engineers are putting them to use in creating new technologies. Medical labs are producing all sorts of bio-printers and designs for prosthetics. Engineers are, similarly, incorporating printing into designs automobiles and airplanes.

The educational environment is not only limited to institutional and schools. There are a great deal of other ways one can learn about additive manufacturing. One of the increasingly popular ones is to do it online. To supplement online studies, many companies offer discount deals for 3D printers and related tech. One suchdeal comes packaged with Courseras online classes.

You can also teach yourself for free by watching YouTube videos. Many YouTubers and online tutors make a living off of assembling 3D printers and creating free tutorials.

Metal printers are expensive and require some training before you can operate them. This requires in person workshops like those offered by3DMT. Aerospace / Defense, Power Generation, and Electronic manufacturers attend two days of in-depth instruction and receive a detailed overview on 3D printing technologies, followed by an intensive, hands-on curriculum on how to use metal printers in prototyping and production. Courses like this are more professional and often cater to businesses as opposed to only individuals. They can be a great place to learn to use equipment that is ordinarily out of the regular consumers reach.

Manufacturers have long used 3D printers in their design process to create prototypes. Using 3D printers for these purposes is calledrapid prototyping.

Why use 3D Printers for Rapid Prototyping?

In short: its fast and cheap. For example,Nike uses 3D printers to create prototypes of running cleats. They used to spend thousands of dollars (and wait weeks) on a prototype before they could hold it in their hands. Now, the cost is only in the tens or hundreds of dollars, and changes can be made instantly on the computer and the prototype reprinted on the same day.

Besides rapid prototyping, 3D printing is also used forrapid manufacturing. Rapid manufacturing is a new method of manufacturing where companies are using 3D printers for short run / small batch custom manufacturing. In this way of manufacturing the printed objects are not prototypes but end user products.

Car manufacturers, restorers and repairers have been employing 3D printing for a long time.Automotiveindustry experts only expect the use of AM technologies to grow in the coming years. Companies are using it to produce not just parts, but tools and interior elements. It has also enabled on-site development, leading to a decrease in dependence on foreign manufacturing.

Koenigseg use carbon fiber parts in their One:1 car. Thanks to a Dimension SST 1200es 3D Printer the company saved 40% of the cost and the parts were developed 20% faster than traditional methods. Similarly, Audi is using 3D metal printing to produce spare parts. They are in the midst of basically disrupting their own supply chain by printing spare parts on demand with a metal printer.

Even though large-scale manufacturers are the dominant users of 3D printing, other types of automobile enthusiasts are making their mark as well. Motorcar engineers all over the world are using printed parts to restore old cars.One such example is when Australian engineers printed out parts to bring a delage Type-C back to life. In doing so, they had to print parts that were out of production for decades and they succeeded.

Theaviationindustry currently uses 3D printing in many different forms. Boeing have been exploring the potential of printed parts and airplanesfor a long time. Back in 2015 it was estimated that Boeing had more than 20,000 3D printed parts implemented in their airplanes.Boeing is also utilizing metal printing. The 787 uses tons of printed titanium parts, saving the company 2 3 million per plane.

Similarly, on the 3D printer supplier side, there are companies carving out a niche in making machines specifically for airplane production. One such machine is StratasysH2000, which uses an infinite build mechanism.

3D Printing is also freeing up designers who are looking to rethink the basics of airplanes. Airbus and its engineers have been working to develop airplane frames and shapes thatmimic those found in nature. This is allowing companies to produce light-weight aircrafts with better aerodynamics.

If you want to see 3D printing applied in the wildest ways imaginable, look no further than theaerospaceindustry. From materials to concept printers they are doing some of the most interesting, cutting edge research in the entire field, all for the purpose of making interstellar exploration more habitable.

Space travel requires an ultra durable exterior. Multiple organisations, such asNASA, have been working to perfect the shielding on shuttles using 3D printers. This has enabled them to produce4D programmable materialsthat react to conditions in very specific ways. Such a prospect would be impossible with traditional methods.

Researchers have also been working on ways to make materials more accessible. Northwestern university presented a concept for a means ofturning extraterrestrial soil into printable parts. The printing methods that they developed allows for printers to create goods out of abundant materials.

Similarly, researchers at the University of Ottawa took this idea a step further byproposing self-replicating printers that process lunar soil. These printers, while still a concept, could lead to exponentially decreasing the amount of construction materials and equipment necessary for a lunar mission. In fact, they could just leave the printer there to build more machines.

Can you print buildings? you sure can. There are not many of them, but companies likeApis Corare producing fascinating results. The company claims it can print a house within 24 hours. Currently, it lends out its machinery to various other firms.

Similarly, countries like China are experimenting withcontour crafting. A project by Shanghai based WinSun uses recyclable materials toprint houses for $4,800 dollars per unit. In this case, all the parts are printed separately first and later on assembled.

Since bigger construction projects require a massive build area, companies have had to think outside the box. On-site Robotics, for example, have been working with the concept of increasing build volumes bymounting printers on cables and monitoring the process with drones. These concepts are rapidly evolving over time, but they have a long way to go.

Architects were one of the early adopters of 3D printing technology. When architects need to present their work as a physical scale model, 3D printing will always be a quick and efficient way to do it. 3D printers help cut down manpower and time when it comes to visualizing designs for clients.

Even though prototyping is still the number one use of printers, there are many instances of companies producing end user products with 3D printers.

Companies like Steelcase are looking into printing furniture and investing loads of money into new techniques to do it. Along with MIT, they showed off a fantasticnew and quick way to UV-cure plastic into desired shapes. They hope to leverage this into a furniture manufacturing technique.

These printers also allow for materials to be reused. Dutch designer Dirk van der Kooijs 3D printed chairs are printed within a few hours. He uses recycled plastic from old refrigerators to create hisEndless Chair, a durable and stylish piece of furniture.

There are quite a few designer lighting fixtures and lamp shades that use 3D printing out there. As of right now, there are no mass production ones.Dutch company V3RS U-TL pendant lampsenvelope themselves around a florescent tube, providing a unique shape for lighting solutions. They can take the form of flowers or other shapes that add extra flavour to the design of any room.

Additive manufacturing has also enabled the development of optics for bulbs and LEDs. Luxexcels work inprinting opticsis already being used for various LED lamps and arrays. Its altering the way we project and produce light.

3D printers are great for making trinkets and tiny add-ons for our daily lives.Jeweleryprinting is perhaps the best example of this. This is another niche within 3D printing. Printers like theSolidscape S300are ideal for creating the wax molds one uses to produce jewellery. Solidscape actually has a whole line of these sorts of machines, indicating that the market is there.

Companies likeDesign Liberohave won awards for their decorative designs like vases with intricate structures with wire thin frames.

The outlook formedicaluse of 3D printing is evolving at an extremely rapid pace as specialists are beginning to utilize 3D printing in more advanced ways. Patients around the world are experiencing improved quality of care through3D printed implantsandprostheticsnever before seen. Even3D printing pensare helping out inorthopaedic surgery.

As of the early two-thousands 3D printing technology has been studied by biotech firms and academia for possible use in tissue engineering applications where organs and body parts are built using inkjet techniques. Layers of living cells are deposited onto a gel medium and slowly built up to form three dimensional structures. We refer to this field of research with the term:bio-printing.

Dentists are embracing 3D printed goods in a rapid pace. AM has allowed dentists to make bite splints, night guards, retainers, dentures and crowns. In fact, theres a whole market for dental printers like theEnvisionTEC Vida. These printers allow dental professionals to craft appliances in the exact shape that clients need them in for a fraction of the usual cost.

Additive manufacturing invaded thefoodindustry a long time ago. Restaurants likeFood Ink and Melisseuse this as a unique selling point to attract customers from across the world.

3D Printing is allowing for odd kinds of food to come about.Shape-changingor transparent pastas could be available at a store near you any time soon. Perhaps, if you have a sweet tooth, youll find3D Systems ChefJetat a bakery near you. Even NASA are getting in on the act withpizza printed in space.

3D printing has been on the periphery of thefashionworld. Aspiring designers have long been trying to leverage its potential.

Designers are making tools that can shake up the production and retail system. Danit Peleg is a fashion designer with a keen eye for the future. While implementing 3D printing into fashion is nothing new, the consumer model she is using on her website is immensely clever. On the website, users can design their own jacket and have it printed,fitted and delivered in just a few clicks.

Looking around, one can see the growth of 3D printed nsidered the pioneer of 3D printed haute couture, Iris van Herpen, prints dresses in collaboration withi.Materialize.

Adidas prints end user mass produced sneakersfor quite some time now. Theyve even made arrangements with companies like Carbon to use their Speedcell solution. Major companies taking an interest in these possibilities is indicative of an inevitable wave of growth.

There are several ways to 3D print. All these technologies are additive, differing mainly in the way layers are build to create an object.

Some methods use melting or softening material to extrude layers. Others cure a photo-reactive resin with a UV laser (or another similar power source) layer by layer.

To be more precise: since 2010, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) group ASTM F42 Additive Manufacturing, developed a set of standards that classify the Additive Manufacturing processes into 7 categories  according to Standard Terminology for Additive Manufacturing Technologies. These seven processes are:

Below youll find a short explanation of all of seven processes for 3D printing:

A 3D printer based on the Vat Photopolymerisation method has a container filled with photopolymer resin which is then hardened with a UV light source.

Vat photopolymerisation schematics. Image source: lboro.ac.uk

The most commonly used technology in this processes isStereolithography (SLA). This technology employs a vat of liquid ultraviolet curable photopolymer resin and an ultraviolet laser to build the objects layers one at a time. For each layer, the laser beam traces a cross-section of the part pattern on the surface of the liquid resin. Exposure to the ultraviolet laser light cures and solidifies the pattern traced on the resin and joins it to the layer below.

After the pattern has been traced, the SLAs elevator platform descends by a distance equal to the thickness of a single layer, typically 0.05 mm to 0.15 mm (0.002 to 0.006). Then, a resin-filled blade sweeps across the cross section of the part, re-coating it with fresh material. On this new liquid surface, the subsequent layer pattern is traced, joining the previous layer. The complete three dimensional object is formed by this project. Stereolithography requires the use of supporting structures which serve to attach the part to the elevator platform and to hold the object because it floats in the basin filled with liquid resin. These are removed manually after the object is finished.

This technique was invented in 1986 by Charles Hull, who also at the time founded the company, 3D Systems.

DLP or Digital Light Processing refers to a method of printing that makes use of light and photosensitive polymers. While it is very similar to stereolithography, the key difference is the light-source. DLP utilises traditional light-sources like arc lamps.

In most forms of DLP, each layer of the desired structure is projected onto a vat of liquid resin that is then solidified layer by layer as the buildplate moves up or down. As the process does each layer successively, it is quicker than most forms of 3D printing.

The Envision Tec Ultra, MiiCraft High Resolution 3D printer, and Lunavast XG2 are examples of DLP printers. Companies that specialise in DLP technology include ONO and Carbon (who invented a subtype of DLP called CLIP).

Other technologies using Vat Photopolymerisation are the new ultrafastContinuous Liquid Interface ProductionorCLIPand marginally used olderFilm Transfer ImagingandSolid Ground Curing.

In this process, material is applied in droplets through a small diameter nozzle, similar to the way a common inkjet paper printer works, but it is applied layer-by-layer to a build platform making a 3D object and then hardened by UV light.

Material Jetting schematics. Image source: custompartnet.com

With binder jetting two materials are used: powder base material and a liquid binder. In the build chamber, powder is spread in equal layers and binder is applied through jet nozzles that glue the powder particles in the shape of a programmed 3D object. The finished object is glued together by binder remains in the container with the powder base material. After the print is finished, the remaining powder is cleaned off and used for 3D printing the next object. This technology was first developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1993 and in 1995 Z Corporation obtained an exclusive license.

The following video shows a high-end binder jetting based 3D printer, the ExOne M-Flex. This 3D printer uses metal powder and curing after the binding material is applied.

The most commonly used technology in this process is Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM).

Fused deposition modelling (FDM), a method of rapid prototyping: 1 nozzle ejecting molten material (plastic), 2 deposited material (modelled part), 3 controlled movable table. Image source: Wikipedia, made by user Zureks under CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

The FDM technology works using a plastic filament or metal wire which is unwound from a coil and supplying material to an extrusion nozzle which can turn the flow on and off. The nozzle is heated to melt the material and can be moved in both horizontal and vertical directions by a numerically controlled mechanism, directly controlled by a computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software package. The object is produced by extruding melted material to form layers as the material hardens immediately after extrusion from the nozzle. This technology is most widely used with two plastic filament material types:ABS(Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) andPLA(Polylactic acid). Though many other materials are available ranging in properties from wood fill to flexible and even conductive materials.

FDM was invented by Scott Crump in the late 80s. After patenting this technology he started the companyStratasysin 1988. The termFused Deposition Modelingand its abbreviation to FDM are trademarked by Stratasys Inc.

The exactly equivalent term, Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), was coined by the members of the RepRap project to give a phrase that would be legally unconstrained in its use.

Pioneer of Contour Crafting, Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis of USC, developed a method which leverages the power of additive manufacturing to build homes. Contour crafting essentially uses a robotic device to automate the construction of large structures such as homes. This device prints walls layer-by-layer by extruding concrete. The walls are smoothed as they are built, thanks to a robotic trowel.

The most commonly used technology in this processes isSelective Laser Sintering (SLS).

SLS uses a high power laser to fuse small particles of plastic, ceramic or glass powders into a mass that has the desired three dimensional shape. The laser selectively fuses the powdered material by scanning the cross-sections (or layers) generated by the 3D modeling program on the surface of a powder bed. After each cross-section is scanned, the powder bed is lowered by one layer thickness. Then a new layer of material is applied on top and the process is repeated until the object is completed.

SLS system schematic. Image source: Wikipedia from user Materialgeeza under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

DMLS is basically the same as SLS, but uses metal instead of plastic, ceramic or glass.

All untouched powder remains as it is and becomes a support structure for the object. Therefore there is no need for any support structure which is an advantage over SLS and SLA. All unused powder can be used for the next print. SLS was developed and patented by Dr. Carl Deckard at the University of Texas in the mid-1980s, under sponsorship of DARPA.

Sheet lamination involves material in sheets which is bound together with external force. Sheets can be metal, paper or a form of polymer. Metal sheets are welded together by ultrasonic welding in layers and then CNC milled into a proper shape. Paper sheets can be used also, but they are glued by adhesive glue and cut in shape by precise blades. A leading company in this field isMcor Technologies.

Simplified model of ultrasonic sheet metal 3D printing. Image source: Wikipedia from user Mmrjf3 shared under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Here is a video with a metal sheet 3D printer by Fabrisonic that uses additive manufacturing paired with CNC milling:

and here is an overview of Mcor 3D printers that use standard A4 paper sheets:

This process is mostly used in the high-tech metal industry and in rapid manufacturing applications. The 3D printing apparatus is usually attached to a multi-axis robotic arm and consists of a nozzle that deposits metal powder or wire on a surface and an energy source (laser, electron beam or plasma arc) that melts it, forming a solid object.

Directed Energy Deposition with metal powder and laser melting. Image source: Merlin project

Sciaky is a major tech company in this area and here is their video presentation showing electron beam additive manufacturing:

Six types of materials can be used in additive manufacturing: polymers, metals, concrete, ceramics, paper and certain edibles (e.g. chocolate). Materials are often produced in wire feedstock (filament), powder form or liquid resin. All seven previously described 3D printing techniques, cover the use of these materials, although polymers are most commonly used and some additive techniques lend themselves towards the use of certain materials over others. Read more about which materials you can use for 3D printing on ourmaterialspage.

In the history of manufacturing, subtractive methods have often come first. The province of machining (generating exact shapes with high precision) was generally a subtractive affair, from filing and turning through milling and grinding.

Additive manufacturings earliest applications have been on the toolroom end of the manufacturing spectrum. For example, rapid prototyping was one of the earliest additive variants and its mission was to reduce the lead time and cost of developing prototypes of new parts and device.

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HPs 3D Printing Technology How Concerned Should Stratasys Ltd (SSYS) Investors Be?

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HPs 3D Printing Technology: How Concerned Should Stratasys Ltd. (SSYS) Investors Be?

Hewlett-Packard recently unveiled its much-anticipated 3D printer. Should Stratasys investors be worried?

If youre closely following the 3D printing space, you know thatHewlett-Packard Companys(NYSE:HPQ)much-anticipated entrance into the fast-growing 3D printing market arrived last week. The 2D printing king unveiled its new 3D printing technology called Multi Jet Fusion and the enterprise-focused 3D printer based upon this tech that it plans to bring to market in 2016. The printer is reportedly 10 times faster than those powered by the leading 3D printing technologies, while sporting high precision, high resolution, and brilliant color capabilities — and it will be priced less than the competition.

How concerned should investors in industry leaderStratasys Ltd.(NASDAQ:SSYS)be?

HPs Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer. Source: HP.

HPs Multi Jet Fusion tech is impressive. According toComputerworld, heres how Terry Wohlers, the 3D printing industry guru who runs the company that publishes the annual Wohlers Report, weighed in:

HPs new 3D printer, if people see that and theyre not blown away, then they dont understand what it takes to build parts using conventional manufacturing. Its not only a game changer, its going to rewrite the rules in the 3D printing industry.

HPs 3D printing technology builds upon the companys proprietary thermal inkjet printing tech that powers many of its 2D printers. There are key commonalities between the technologies, so its perhaps not surprising that HP was able to leverage its 2D printing expertise to achieve such outstanding speed, resolution, precision, and color properties with its 3D printing tech. HPs proclamation that its printer is 10 times faster than competing technologies uses the leading 3D printing technologies in the United States as reference points: selective laser sintering, or SLS, (one of3D Systemstechnologies) and fused deposition modeling, or FDM, (one of Stratasys core techs).

How does HPs 3D printer achieve its industry-topping speed? By employing a unique feature — a wide print bar with about 30,000 microscopic nozzles spraying 350 million drops per second of thermoplastic onto the print platform. The drops are 20 microns in size, which allows for extremely high resolution of about 1,200 dpi (dots per inch); most comparable printers have resolutions about half that.

HPs Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer — the print bar is shown on the right. Source: HP.

HP showed off some examples demonstrating the fine detail and brilliant color capabilities of its printer. Heres a slick model of an oil rig:

Simplified, HPs tech can be thought of as a kind of binder jetting technology, with a touch of laser sintering tech thrown in. Like binder jetting, the process involves the application of a binding agent — which HP calls a fusing agent — to the materials that are being built up layer by layer. And like laser sintering, the process involves applying what HP calls an energy source to fuse the materials.

As for materials, HPs printer will initially be able to print in a wide range of plastics. However, the company has said that it plans to expand the printers capabilities to include ceramics and metals.

Im a bit skeptical that this tech will be able to successfully compete with direct metal laser sintering –the most widely used metal 3D printing tech — and electron beam melting when it comes to printing metals. (Among the publically traded players, 3D Systems offers DMLS printers, whileArcamis the sole manufacturer of EBM printers.) Binder jetting generally isnt considered as effective as these technologies at producing high-density metal components. Very high densities are required for critical end-use applications, such as in the aerospace and medical implant industries. That said, HP is surely pouring money into research and development, so a competitive metal 3D printer is possible.

The short answer is Possibly down the road. While HP has had well-publicized stumbles in the recent past, it shouldnt be underestimated. The company has deep pockets and already counts as customers many of the companies that it will likely be targeting with its 3D printer. So, it has the potential to offer compelling package deals and force margin squeezes on its smaller, pure-play 3D printing competitors.

That said, there is still ahugedifference between unveiling a compelling product and actually successfully bringing it to market. For this reason — and the reasons Ill outline below — investors in Stratasys should sit tight, as there is no reason for undue concern at this point.

The 3D printing market is projected to explode in sizeAccording to the2014 Wohlers Report,revenue for the industry grew year over year by 35% to $3.1 billion in 2013. Wohlers projects that the market will exceed $21 billion by 2020. Thats a torrid annual growth rate of more than 31%. Other companies are predicting even faster growth.

So, theres room at the 3D printing party for a new entrant, even a big player.

HPs entrance could accelerate the industrys growthHPs entrance into the market could benefit Stratasys by helping increase the total size of the market. 3D printing is still in its early stages, especially for production applications. The entrance of a company of HPs size into the market should help increase awareness of the technology, which could speed up the markets already projected fast growth.

Additionally, when a new formidable company enters a market, it forces existing players to up their innovation game. So, its likely that the two leaders, Stratasys and 3D Systems, will ramp up their R&D spending. This could unleash even faster innovation in the space, which could lead to an acceleration in the growth of the market.

HPs 3D printer launch is at least two years awayIt wont be until 2016 at the earliest that HP launches its printer. One-and-a-half to two years is an eternity in the tech world. Stratasys product offerings wont remain static during this period. The company has maintained a steadyR&D budgetin the 10%-11% of revenue range, which has enabled it to continue to improve its technology and roll out new products.

Stratasys largely R&D-driven organic growth is a key reason that it should be effective at fending off competition from HP and other new entrants into the market. While competitor 3D Systems has a few advantages in its moat bag of tricks that Stratasys does not — namely its greater diversity of technologies, its metal printer offerings, and itsProject Ara partnership withGoogleto develop a high-speed, continuous, fabrication-grade platform — the fact that its growth has largely been acquisition-driven could make it more vulnerable than Stratasys over the long term, in my opinion.

Stratasys is diversifiedStratasys revenue breakdown by segment for Q2:

*Includes sales of printers and materials. Source:Stratasys Q2 earnings report.

Stratasys closed on its acquisitions of Solid Concepts and Harvest Technologies, both of which provide on-demand 3D printing services, in the second quarter. So, its services percentage of revenue will almost surely increase in the near term.

Stratasys has three 3D printing technologies upon which its 3D printers are based:

Which technologies and business segments might be most vulnerable to competition from HPs printer?Stratasys proprietary PolyJet technology is the most similar to HPs tech. It jets layers of UV-curable liquid photopolymer onto a build tray. Its key strengths are its ability to produce complex shapes, intricate details, and smooth surfaces.

However, there are at least three factors that should help mitigate HPs competitive threat here:

Two analysts have opined that HPs tech appears more similar to 3D Systems multijet modeling technology than to Stratasys PolyJet tech. If this proves accurate, its not Stratasys that has the lowest-hanging fruit.

Stratasys PolyJet line is heavily geared toward advanced prototyping, rather than production. It seems that HPs printer will be aimed at production applications.

Stratasys Objet Connex500 Connex printers — a high-end line thats been selling well — sport 16-micron resolution versus HPs printers 20-micron resolution.

Stratasys Fortus 3D printers, which are powered by FDM tech, could also be vulnerable. These printers are primarily targeted to production applications, so HPs printers speed advantage should put it in play as a competitor for some applications.

In addition to targeting enterprise customers, HP will surely be marketing its 3D printer to on-demand 3D printing service operations, which could present competition to Stratasys services segment. Last fall, HP CEO Meg Whitman implied such when she was quoted by theThe Registeras saying: [Were asking] how do we commercialise to print faster, at lower price points, to enable service providers?

In fact, Shapeways CEO Peter Weijmarshausen joined HP execs on the stage last week to share his accolades of the printer. Shapeways is theAmazon.comof the 3D printing space, providing 3D printing services for consumers through to larger businesses, with a focus on consumers and small businesses.

Which products appear safe from competition from HP?The companys desktop models should be safe, as HPs initial offering is intended for a factory floor. Stratasys well-known MakerBot printers fall into this category, as do its uPrint and Mojo printers. These latter printers, which are based on FDM tech, are commercial-grade machines targeted to enterprise customers.

Additionally, Stratasys WDM 3D printers shouldnt be affected by HPs entrance into the market. These printers build waxlike castings for the dental market. Stratasys doesnt break out its printer sales by product line, but its a big player in the dental market.

No matter how compelling HPs 3D printing technology is, its highly unlikely that one technology is ever going to be the best fit for all — or even most — applications and materials. Furthermore, since the 3D printing market is projected to explode in size and Stratasys has proven that it can both innovate and execute well, its future still looks bright at this point.

Beth McKennaowns shares of Arcam. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of 3D Systems, Amazon.com, Google (A and C shares), and Stratasys. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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9 Basic Types of 3D Printers

9 Basic Types of 3D Printers 3D Printing Technology Guide

Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)

Material Jetting (MJ) / Wax Casting

Learn about the 9 basic types of 3D printers in the market right now: FDM, SLA, DLP, SLS, SLM, EBM, LOM, BJ and MJ.

Okay, so youre struggling to tell the difference between types of 3D printers like FDM and SLA? Or SLS and EBM? Or LOB and MJF?

We hear your pain. With all these acronyms flying around, youd be forgiven for mistaking a certain type of 3D printer technology for a genre of dance music.

Have no fear! Our very short guide explains the essential types of 3D printers currently out there. Have a blitz through this article and youll soon be able to tell which from which. And what from what.

Weve also embedded some videos under each, to better illustrate the 3D printer technologies. Enjoy!

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FDM is the most common 3D printing method used in desktop 3D printing. Thermoplastic filament is heated and extruded through an extrusion head that deposits the molten plastic in X and Y coordinates, while the build table lowers the object layer by layer in the Z direction.

Effectively, the object is built from the bottom up. If an object has overhanging parts, however, it will need support structures that can be removed after the printing is finished.

This type of 3D printers is a cost-effective means for product development and rapid prototyping in small business and education sectors since its capable of fabricating robust parts reliably and quickly.

SLA has the distinction of being the oldest of the 3D printing technologies, first invented by Chuck Hull in 1983.

SLA works by exposing a layer of photosensitive liquid resin to a UV-laser beam so that the resin hardens and becomes solid. Once the laser has swept a layer of resin in the desired pattern and it begins to harden, the model-building platform in the liquid tank of the printer steps down the thickness of a single layer, and the laser begins to form the next layer. Each layer is built on top of the preceding one.

Like the FDM 3D printer technology, objects with overhangs 3D printed with this type of 3D printer will require support structures. And after printing has completed, the object must be rinsed with a solvent. Sometimes its also baked in a UV oven to finish processing.

SLA creates smooth surfaced objects with extreme detail, and its increasingly popular in industries like jewelry and cosmetic dentistry for creating castable molds.

Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) could be the next big thing in SLA 3D printing. This 3D printing technology also uses resin and an ultraviolet beam. The difference lies in an oxygen-permeable membrane that lies below the resin, which makes the process much faster. The inventors claim they can create objects up to 100 times faster. The first CLIP 3D printers already are in a test phase.

Digital Light Processing (DLP) and Stereolithography have a lot in common. Both types of 3D printers use liquid photopolymers. You might have heard of these resins. DLP and SLA printers cure them by applying light to it. SLA does that with a laser, DLP with a special projector.

DLP technology was invented in 1987 by Larry Hornbeck of Texas Instrument and became extremely popular in projectors. DLP uses a computer-controlled, micro-mirror grid, laid out on a semiconductor chip. These tiny mirrors tilt back and forth. When a mirror is tilted, it reflects light, creating a bright pixel. When the mirror is tilted the other way, the pixel is dark. The technology is used in movie projectors, cell phones, and also for 3D printing. One of the benefits for 3D printing is its speed: You can print layers in an instant with this type of 3D printer.

DLP 3D printers are mainly used in professional environments. This type of 3D printer delivers robust pieces with excellent resolution. But also makers and hobbyists are building their own 3D printers with it. They use used beamers or even smartphones to cure the resin.

SLS is similar to SLA, but the key difference is that this type of 3D printer uses powdered material in the build area instead of liquid resin. A laser is used to selectively sinter a layer of granules, which binds the material together to create a solid structure. When the object is fully formed, its left to cool in the machine before being removed.

SLS is widely used for product development and rapid prototyping in a wide range of commercial industries, and also for limited-run manufacturing of end-use parts. The materials used in SLS can range from nylon, glass, and ceramics to aluminum, silver, and even steel.

This type of 3D printer requires the use of expensive high-powered lasers, however, which puts it a bit beyond the reach of the average consumer with the exception of professional 3D printing services like Shapeways, Sculpteo, and i.materialise.

SLM is sometimes regarded as a subcategory of the SLS 3D printer type, where SLM uses a high-powered laser beam to fully melt metallic powders into solid three-dimensional parts.

Typical materials used are stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, and cobalt chrome. For applications in the aerospace or medical orthopedics industry, SLM is used to create parts with complex geometries and thin-walled structures, with hidden channels or voids. Elsewhere, as in the video above, its been used to fabricate gas turbines for the energy industry.

In contrast to SLM, the EBM technique uses a computer-controlled electron beam under high vacuum to fully melt the metallic powder at high temperatures up to 1000 C.

This type of 3D printer can use metals like pure titanium, Inconel718, and Inconel625 to fabricate aerospace parts and medical implants. But while the 3D printer technology is exciting, its currently very slow and very expensive.

LOM uses layers of adhesive-coated paper, plastic or metal laminates, which are fused under heat and pressure and shaped by cutting with a computer controlled laser or knife. This is sometimes followed by machining and drilling. The 3D object is created layer-by-layer, and after the excess material is cut away, the object can be sanded or sealed with paint.

Though the dimensional accuracy of this 3D printer type is slightly less than SLA or SLS, LOM is one of the most affordable and fastest 3D printing methods available to create relatively large parts. It also allows for full-color 3D printed objects.

This type of 3D printing was invented at MIT. The 3D printing technology comes in many names. Its known as powder bed printing, inkjet 3D printing,drop-on-powder printing or probably most common as binder jetting.

Binder Jetting is an additive manufacturing process. This type of 3D printer usestwo materials: a powder based (often gypsum) material and abonding agent. The agentacts as an adhesive between powder layers. Usually, the binder is extruded in liquid form from a printhead just think of a regular inkjet 2D printer. After a layer is finished, the build plate is lowered and the process repeated.

You can use this 3D printing technology with ceramic, metal, sand or plastic materials.

These type of 3D printers have a huge advantage. You can print in full-color by adding pigments to the binder (usually cyan, magenta, yellow, black and white). This made it the preferred method for the popular 3D selfies. The drawback of this 3D printing method is the structural integrity of the objects. You wont get high-resolution and rugged prints with this type of 3D printer technology but there are some exceptions.

Theres also advancement in this type of 3D printing technology. In 2016, Hewlett-Packard introduced Multijet Fusion (MJF), which wants to bring Binder Jetting to the next level-

First, a layer of 3D printable material is deployed by a carriage. A second carriage with a thermal inkjet array passes from right-to-left, depositing a pair of chemical agents across the full working area. One is a fusing agent, to create a solid layer from the material, and the other is a detailing agent, to determine the physical outline of the layer being created. Finally, energy is applied to catalyze the fusing agent, and the powder imbued with the detailing agent remains inert.

Potential applications for this type of 3D printer are for rapid prototyping and short-run manufacturing in the automotive, medical and aerospace industries. However, the full extent of MJF capabilities is yet to be established, with newer fusing agents promising to offer different properties like full color, conductivity, strength, and thermal reactivity.

The Material Jetting technology is better known aswax casting.Theres no inventor per se its a technique used by jewelers since centuries. Lost wax casting (or investment casting) is a production process that mainly allows you to produce customizable jewelry of very high quality in various metals.But with 3D printing, theres finally a process to automate wax casting and for most jewelers, that quite something.

So it has become the dominant type of 3D printing technology if youre a jeweler or want to experiment with casts.

There are a handful of professional wax 3D printers on the market, like the Wax Jet from Statasys. If you want to experiment with this 3D printing technology, you dont have to buy a printer. There are 3D printing services like Shapeways or Sculpteo which use Material Jetting or Multijet Modeling (MJM) machines for this task.

Molten wax is deposited onto an aluminum build platform in layers using several nozzles that sweep across the build area. As the heated material jets onto the build plate, it solidifies. A different type of wax with a lower melting temperature is deposited below overhangs in your product, acting as a support material. When printing is finished, they are put in a heated bath that melts away support material.

Castable wax is very fragile and should be handled carefully. It will begin softening around 60C or 140F and melts at 80C or 176F. It can slowly deform and weaken over time, so better be fast.

If you want to experiment with wax casting on a regular FDM printer, you should give the Moldlay filament a try.

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