3D Printing

What is it?

3D printing, commonly known as ‘Additive Manufacture’ is a prototyping/manufacturing method where products are made layer by layer without the use of moulds or other tooling. Unlike traditional methods where for example you start with a billet then remove material, with AM you start with nothing and add material.

There are several forms of additive manufacture which all work in slightly different ways, but essentially they all follow the same principles. Each different method has its advantages and drawbacks, whether it be better surface finish, stronger model for working prototypes or full colour models for display environments. 3PS uses the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology utilising thermoplastic filaments and hybrids, essentially thermoplasic mixed with metal or carbon and other deriratives.

The basics

Every 3D printer needs a CAD 3D model of your product. The norm for input to the print process is a CAD .stl file. The printer software then slices this digital model into thousands of wafer thin slices. Typically these range from 300 microns down to 100 microns. 3PS can print down to less than 50 microns.

The thinner the slice the greater the resolution and quality of the finished product. BUT the thinner the slice the longer it takes to print the product - there are more slices to print - and the more expensive it becomes. So, as with many things in life, resolution is a trade-off.

These slices are sent to the printer one by one. Material is then laid down in the exact cross sections of the slices, one layer on top of the other from the bottom to the top until you are left with your lovely new product.