From the beginnings…
Many talks about building objects using 3D printing as being a new revolution, even bigger than internet. From Gutenberg’s typography method, 3D printing technology is one of the most spectacular inventions. SF movies’ imagination in the 80s starts to bear fruits. In the beginning, quite costly, this technology is today affordable and will become more and more accessible and wide. Those whom have watched Star Trek: The Next Generation series, remember the crew building its own objects using a device – at that moment, in the future – highly advanced. That device drove 3D technology used today. This process is very similar to printing a paper but in three dimensions.
Various additive processes are now available. Some methods are: Selective Laser Melting (SLM) or Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereo lithography (SLA), Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM). Each method has its own advantages and drawbacks.
3D Printing using Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
FDM begins with a software process which processes an STL file (stereo lithography file format), mathematically slicing and orienting the model for the build process. The printing machine may dispense multiple plastic materials to achieve different goals: for example, one material may build up the model and another may be used as a soluble support structure. For another example, multiple colors of the same type of thermoplastic may be laid down on the same model. The thermoplastics are heated past their glass transition temperature and are then deposited by an extrusion head, which follows a tool-path defined by CAM software, and the part is built from the bottom up, one layer at a time.
Fused Deposition Modeling