What is a 3D printer and what is it for?

The latest technology no longer belongs exclusively to large corporations, the most advanced laboratories or the armies as was customary in the last century. The democratization of technologies is a reality today. Devices as revolutionary as a 3D printer can be purchased by anyone to physically create their own designs.

The Internet and the productive capacity that humanity sustains at this time has allowed the concept of technological democratization to develop , which means that most people have access to technologies shortly after they are created. A fact that was not the norm just 30 years ago. Artificial intelligence, drones, robots, autonomous vehicles, and 3D printers can be purchased and used by the majority of the population without waiting for permission from governments, the military, or large corporations.

3D printers are one of those technological tools that are quickly and easily making their way through the population. An expansion that takes place largely thanks to increasingly affordable prices and 3D Printing Courses offered by specialized pages such as 3D printers.com, with expert teachers who sell i3d Academy certificates.

What is a 3D printer?

This innovative technological tool is nothing more than a machine that allows the creation of the most varied objects on a physical, tangible scale . These parts are pre-designed on a computer that will send the manufacturing order to the printer to make the design in detail.

These devices are capable of printing in a three-dimensional space from toys to human prostheses, models of buildings, decorative objects, cases for mobile phones, and even entire houses. There seem to be no limits to the capabilities of a 3D printer.

The most common ones, those that are spreading rapidly through homes, are by no means large appliances, take up little space and consume few energy resources . It is possible to have them in any corner of the house and give them the most creative uses imaginable.

To make them work it is essential to use any of the software available for it. The most popular software for 3D printers are Slic3r, Cura or Netfabb. Each one will be designed to meet specific needs and complexities.

With these programs it is possible to build an object from the accumulation of a certain number of layers of melted material on a platform in a sequential way , which is what it is about.

The operation of a 3D printer

It is not complicated, but it is not overly straightforward or simple to operate a 3D printer to obtain good results. You have to study and practice to define more precisely the objects you want to produce .

The first step is the creation of the digital file . It is the model to be printed designed inside a computer using digital techniques. This file is essential, without it it will be impossible for the machine to give volume and body to the desired object.

To create the previously digitized figure, these printers work using extrusion technology . Extrusion is using a melted substance, usually resin or plastic, so that the object is built layer by layer.

As already indicated, the manufacturing process of these devices to create physical objects has its origin in a digital design, that is , it is additive . This is one of its main qualities, which gives it the power to create very complex pieces that are difficult to achieve with other manufacturing systems.

Brief historical review of 3D printers

Machines dedicated to 3-dimensional printing are not recent inventions. Its origin took place in 1976 , when the first inkjet printer appeared . From that moment on, the possibility of replacing the ink with other types of more solid materials would be investigated. In 1984 was when the first real steps were taken to achieve this adaptation, thanks to the technological advances of the moment.

It is worth asking, therefore, who invented it , who is credited with the conception of such an extraordinary machine. Well, the first application that was carried out to patent it was made in Japan in 1981 by Dr. Hideo Kodama , although the project did not come to fruition, since the Municipal Institute of Industrial Research in Nagoya for which he worked ran out of funds. Although this inventor scientist came to create two additive manufacturing methods that would work with photo-sensitive resin.

Others also tried it in the 1980s, in this case from a team of French engineers (Alain Le Méhauté, Olivier de Witte and Jean-Claude André). In the same way, the project was abandoned when the project ran out of funds, in this case because they did not find possible areas of application.

Finally it was Charles Hull in 1984 who would become co-founder of the prestigious 3D Systems company, which would invent what is known as stereolithography, which would later evolve to the current 3D printer .

This first machine already allowed the creation of a three-dimensional object from digital data from a computer. In these beginnings it was used to create model designs, models so that users could get an idea and even test the creation before going to the production of the final model and accessing their investment.