Tara Ibrahim, Mechanical Engineering
As a heavily consumer based society, the methods of object fabrication are constantly changing in order to become more efficient and cost effective. One relatively new method of creating objects is 3D printing, a method that developed a little over 30 years ago.
What is 3D Printing?
Since its inception, 3D printing has evolved into a broad term that covers many processes used in a number of applications. Essentially, three-dimensional objects are created by layering two-dimensional cross sections of a small thickness on top of one another.
There are several different types of 3D printing with various printing resolutions and printing materials, but most 3D printers use the same process to create layers. Typically, a 3D printing machine works like a typical printer where either a laser that solidifies a resin or a head that deposits printing material creates layers of solid material on top of one another. This process is similar to painting a wall, where the width of the brush controls the speed of painting. These layers often take time to create and moving the stage can add time to the process as well.
Where 3D Printing is Going
A new process for 3D printing called “continuous liquid interface production,” or CLIP for short, developed at the University of North Carolina has the potential to make the process much faster.
What CLIP has the ability to do is solidify the entire cross section of the object at the same time. By moving the stage of the printed object at the same rate as the cross section image changes creates a solid, continuous, three-dimensional object in a fraction of the time traditional 3D printing would take.
This new process could revolutionize the way objects are created. Currently, 3D printing is mostly used for prototypes and one-of-a-kind applications, but this new method could have 3D printers being used for many more applications such as mass production in industry. Carbon3D, a new company, is going to be selling the printer once the process is ready for wide-scale release.
3D printing is the future of manufacturing, but it isn’t cheap enough yet for such wide scale use. For creating one-of-a-kind objects, however, 3D printing is perfect. There are a few places to 3D print on campus, but they are not free.
3D Printing at Illinois
The Illinois MakerLab, located at the Business Instructional Facility (BIF), offers discounted prices for students and faculty, but is also open to other users. They have a number of services they offer, such as 3D printing, where three-dimensional designs created by the user in CAD software can be 3D printed and 3D scanned (where three-dimensional objects can be scanned). MakerLab also has 3D design and prototyping where someone at the MakerLab can assist with 3D rendering, design, and prototyping.
Don’t know your way around a 3D printer? MakerLab also offers courses for students to learn about how 3D design and printing can aid in product development as well as workshops in 3D printing, basic 3D design, advanced 3D design, and 3D scanning.
Though 3D printing has not reached the capacity to be used for mass production, it is still a powerful tool in design and creating prototypes. Visit the Illinois MakerLab to learn more about what you could do with the power to 3D print.