“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” While that line uttered by Captain Picard of the Enterprise might not be as famous as the one about boldly going where no one has gone before among Star Trek fans, it probably was just as important in some ways.
What was Captain Picard doing? He was having the computer make tea for him using the replicator, a device that could “rearrange the molecules of a substance into any other substance, as long as you knew the molecular structure, of course.” While 3D printing might not be to that level yet, it is certainly changing the way that American manufacturing is done.
What is 3D Printing?
3D printing is a process that is more precisely named additive manufacturing. It is done by using a computer generated model to create a three dimensional part. The part drawing or model is then broken down into a series of very thin layers by another program.
A device, called a 3D printer, is then used to create each layer. The layers are created one at a time until the finished product is made; this is where we get the term additive manufacturing. Each layer is added on top of the last one in order to create a finished product.
What Are the Layers Made Of?
At first, 3D printers used only plastic. While that is generally the medium that most home 3D printers use, many more types are available. Powdered metals, advanced polymers and other materials can be used in additive manufacturing.
Some materials require a finishing process which might be sintering in an oven or curing of some sort. This means virtually any part can be constructed by one of these devices. Larger parts can be broken down into smaller components and then assembled post printing.
The Advantages of 3D Printing
The major advantage of a 3D printer is creating objects with complex shapes using a simple process. In the past, machinists working metals were limited by the machines doing the work. Sometimes, complex parts simply could not be made. Even, what may seem like a simple, geared part for a car is not made by machining, but by using powdered metal manufacturing. 3D printers change all that.
3D printers are only limited (marginally) by the imagination and ability of the designer using the 3D software. Need a new handle for the kitchen cabinet? Go online and download a pattern you like then print it out. No more trips to the hardware store.
Keeping Things Clean
This amazing technology is driven by small precise parts that need to be kept clean. This is where ultrasonic cleaners can help. The injectors, sprayers and jets used in 3D printing need to be kept clean, what better way to do that than to use an ultrasonic cleaner!
Omegasonics has a wide variety of ultrasonic cleaners that will help the 3D printing revolution keep moving. Look at what we have available today!