What is 3D Printing?-
3D Printing is a process where three dimensional objects are built layer by layer.
Unlike conventional printing with ink or toner the material laid down in a 3D printer
has significant thickness. Subsequent layers are added, gradually forming the shape
of the desired product.
The materials used are most often a plastic 'filament' which is fused onto the build
product by a heated nozzle or a liquid or powdered resin which is set by a laser in
the desired shape for each layer.
The layer height is typically a fraction of a millimetre, providing sufficient detail
for intricate items while allowing a reasonable build time and size. The principle can
equally be used on a much larger scale with house-sized objects theoretically possible.
3D printing is a type of Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) and is already widely used
in industry. Unlike Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining which uses automated
milling equipment to cut a product from a solid block or billet, 3D printing is an
additive process which builds a product up using material which is deposited in the
exact shape required, without creating a mould and often requiring no further machining
or even assembly.
Intricate, interlocking shapes can be created such as bearings and gears often allowing
items to be printed in an assembled state and even to emerge from the printing process
as fully operational products.
Various materials can be 3D printed, from plastics and resins to sintered metals and
even Titanium, built up in a welding process. Other applications include 3D printed
food products, medical and dental uses.
What is a 3D scanner?-
A 3D scanner analyses a physical item and creates a three dimensional digital model.
Once the shape of an item is modelled it can be edited, scaled up or down or simply
Various methods exist for analysing the shape of the item often involving a number of
cameras which view the object from different angles and lines projected onto the item
using a laser which show the outline of the object when viewed in profile.
For smaller items the cameras can be fixed while the object is rotated on a turntable.
In the case of larger items, hand held scanner units can be used which build up a 3D
digital model of the object as they are moved around to view it from every angle.
While many items can be designed and modelled 'from scratch' in a 3D Computer Aided
Design (CAD) program using lines and geometric shapes, the 3D scanner allows an item
with complex shapes and curves to be quickly 'captured' into digital form and then
reproduced, edited or even incorporated into new designs.
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