3D printer is a type of device that can be used to design and build three dimensional models and products for devices, all of which are designed and modeled through a 3D images captured by a sensor or instructions given by the user through a software. The process of 3D printing is known as additive manufacturing where thermoplastic inks are fed into the printer which become soft and flexible within a certain temperature range and solidify when cooled down.
The use of 3D printing has been greatly increasing every year. Companies have been relying more on 3D printing to boost their product development in less amount of time. This reliance has jumped from 38.7% in 2018 to 51% in 2019. The use of 3D printing is the most dominant in the application of proof of concepts (63%) and prototyping (68%) as of 2019 . Besides these, 3D printing has tremendous use in the field of medicine. E.g. Creation of 3D bio-printed mini-heart a Chicago biotech start-up called BIOLIFE4D. Another use is in the field of robotics to produce industrial robots and robotic arms such as the RAM 123 3D printing system created by Viridis3D. Recently, there are five types of 3D printer technology, each used for a specific purpose.
Types of 3D printing
Stereo lithography (SLA) Technology
Stereo lithography is a type of 3D printing technology which uses ultraviolet laser against a liquid polymer to create precise models, patterns and prototypes. It is the least time consuming compared to the other prototyping method. It is the most dominant technology in terms of surface details and smooth surface of products.SLA offers a wide variety of shapes for its products but it is really expensive. It requires manual support for complex structures but is an excellent technology for creating water resistant material.
Fused Deposition Modelling(FDM)
FDM is another type of 3D printing technology which uses actual plastic instead of simulating plastic by a laser. It is also used to creating prototypes. It works on a layer to layer basis, from the bottom to the top. The bottom layer is formed first by heating and extruding thermoplastic filament through the extrusion head. This process continues until the top layer is bonded and solidified with the layer at its bottom. FDM is cheaper than SLA but less accurate than SLA though. Depending on the geometry, some parts may take even more time to print.
Selective Laser Sintering(SLS)
SLS is a type of 3D printing technology in which a high beam of laser helps to combine the tiny particles of glass, ceramics or plastic to form 3D products. Compared to FDM and SLA, SLS does not require structure support for complex parts. It can also print products of different geometries that the other 3D printing technologies are not able to. The products printed through SLS are said to be durable and strong. The products are not very accurate though.SLS is used in the field of automobiles and aerospace since, with the advancement in technology, it can also print metal.
Laminated Object Manufacturing(LOM)
In LOM, plastics or sheets of plastics are laminated or fused together with the help of a computer controlled laser or blade at a high temperature and pressure to build products. The advantage of LOM is that the cost is really low since the materials are easily available. Also, it does not involve chemical processes and the base material is kept in an enclosed chamber so larger models can be printed easily. However, it falls behind the other 3D printing technologies in terms of complex geometric products or functional prototypes.
Digital Light Processing(DLP)
DLP shares a great deal of similarity with SLA. The difference is only the different use of light source. In contrast to SLA which uses laser, DLP uses conventional light source on a photosensitive polymer resin to build 3D products. DLP has the same level of accuracy as of SLA in product printing. The one advantage it has over SLA is the use of shallow vat of resin which results in less waste. DLP is also faster than SLA since the light source falls on the whole surface of the resin at a single pass. DLP is used to create non-functional prototypes such as detailed artworks and patterns for injection molding. DLP is costly as well.
Current Scenario in Nepal
“Nepal’s digital manufacturing sector, focused around 3D printing, is poised to flourish.” The use of 3D printing technology has been increased by 50% in the last year in Nepal. It has been making great headways in the medical sector. One of the examples is the EEG cap created by Centre for Molecular Dynamics Nepal run by Dibesh Karmacharya. If an EEG cap had to be created using other technologies it would’ve costed thousands of dollars. The 3D printed EEG caps have prevented that. Another example is the parts of medical drones being created by Mahabir Pun’s National Innovation Centre (NIC). Besides this, NIC is also using 3D printing to support young engineers to make customized parts for robotics competition and also to produce a 3D printed water filter.
3D printing is being used in almost all the sectors throughout the world. But in Nepal, it still has more room to grow. Currently, it is only being used to create small parts for medical tools, robots and prototypes. So, there are still many places in Nepal where the use of 3D printing technology can come in handy. The earthquake in Nepal rendered many people disabled for life and with no money left. When implying on the medical sector, more functional prototypes for disabled should be made like the ones being made by Matt Rockwell and his friends at Disaster Hack. The cost will be much cheaper so disabled people will able to buy it as well. Again focusing around the earthquake of 2015, 3D printing can be implemented in the field of architectures to create prototypes of earthquake resistant buildings. To reduce the cost of construction of these buildings even more, some parts of the real buildings can also be created using 3D printed architectural parts.
Plans for Implementation
The number of 3D printers in Nepal as of 2018 was only 44 and those too only FDM printers. To produce fully functional prosthetics, 3D printers following SLS and SLA technology should be brought to Nepal. The best cheap SLS printer is the Sintratec S1 costing $9,000 and the best cheap option for SLS printer is the XYZprinting Nobel 1.0A costing $899 . Colleges should have a 3D printer as well to teach the engineering students about how to build architectures in the future. The number of 3D printing service providers should be increased as well. Hardware stores should also sell 3D printed hardware materials used for building purposes so that people have easy access to 3D printing services. Following these plans will develop the country in the field of architecture and medicine.
3D printing is the process of printing three dimensional products through a software guided printer. It is currently being used for prototyping and proof of concept throughout the world. In Nepal, 3D printing is currently being used for building small medical parts and robotics. Depending on the features, there are five types of 3D printing technology currently being used. They are SLA, SLS, FDM, LOM and DLP. Besides the current use of 3D printers in Nepal, it can also be implemented to create prosthetic parts for disabled people and even in the field of architecture to create prototypes of buildings and small hardware 3D parts. Hence, 3D printing is a very useful technology which is being used in almost all the scopes throughout the world and its use is increasing every year.
With 3D printing, the sky is the limit. By 2024, additive manufacturing will grow to a $35.6 billion industry. In the coming future, a fully sized 3D printed rocket is a possibility. Relativity Space is aerospace startup aiming to do that. 3D printed houses, food and automobiles have just started making headway in the market and soon will spread widely throughout the world. In the coming future, 3D printing can start a revolution in every field imaginable in the world.
To know about E-learning: https://latticenepal.com/e-learning-and-its-implementation-future-2485-2/