September 13th, 2011 | Published in Information
What can a 3D Printer Print?
3D Printers can print a range of materials including Plastics, Glass, Metal, Polymers, Human Tissue, Wax, Edible Food, and Sand Glue mixtures. Typical plastics include ABS and PLA filaments in 1.75 and 3mm stock, however other. Most end-user commercial systems use plastics as their main printing filament. While some plastics are produced as using petroleum, there has been considerable advancement and mass production of environmentally sustainable plastics using compounds such as ethanol (corn), and are sweet smelling, non-toxic, and available in a range of colors including glow-in-the-dark through a variety of online manufacturers including Makerbot, Ultimachine, and Buildatron.
Metals such as titanium are produced using .2mm titanium granules excited by an electron beam, and the use of super conductive materials such as copper, is a crucial step in the development of printers that can manufacture micro-processor applications. Printers specializing in the printing of human tissue can print an assorted collections of acids, peptides, and proteins, opening up new areas of research for scientists, and new breakthroughs by doctors.
Printers that print sand glue mixtures are used by artists such as Enrico Dini, a European sculpture, and can be as large as a living room! Engineers such as Jim Kor, of Kor Designs, have succeeded in developing 3d printed car shells, and companies such as Made in Space, a development of Kurzweil‘s graduate academy of futurists, are developing 3d printers which can operate in weightless environments. It is conjectured that printing in weightless environments will add structural durability and a level of precision beyond that of terrestrial additive manufacturing processes.
Additionally by using a laser scanner, these machines open up new industries and possibilities, allowing for replication of models by archeologists, paleontologists, engineers, artists, and even forensic pathologists.
Depending on the printing technique, such as Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) or Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), 3D printing can be used to create objects that otherwise would be otherwise impossible to develop. In general most commercial 3d printers can print at a resolution of 100 micrometres (0.1mm), however some higher end machines can raise that to .16mm. The particles (3D dots) are between 50 and 100 micrometres (0.05-0.1) in diameter.
Hopefully that should provide some insight into the complexities of the 3d printer industry. Stay tuned for further articles as we continue to explore the world of personal fabrication.