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3D printing technology: what technologies are available?

Posted by Luxexcel on Feb 29, 2016 2:57:55 PM
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3D printing or additive manufacturing is a radically different manufacturing method to prototype your product. Until the adoption of 3D printing, traditional manufacturing methods like embossing and injection moulding were used to prototype and manufacture all sorts of products.

The adoption of 3D printing has changed the whole manufacturing process. With 3D printing your parts you can easily build custom products. Thought leaders throughout different industries believe that 3D printing, or sometimes also called Additive Manufacturing (AM) has the potential to become the main manufacturing technology.  

3D printing: unique manufacturing process

By a unique process you can now create more innovative designs and your components can be specifically tailored to its applications. It enables new innovations in different industries by providing a clear manufacturing solution to manufacture custom products.  One of the main benefits of 3D printing is the speed. Within days you can test, iterate and re-print your product and validate your design. 3D printing technology is supportive of an iterative design process, which is helpful for all the designers around.

3D printing technology developments

What you might not be aware of is that 3D printing technologies were first developed in the 80s. In that time period 3D printing technologies were called Rapid Prototyping Technologies. The first 3D printer was called a SLA printer and was developed in 1983. Since the development of the first 3D printer many technologies were developed. Nowadays, the most popular 3D print technologies are Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) & Direct Metal Laser Sintering.

Benefits of 3D printing

  • Customization: 3D printing enables customization of every single product. There is no need to make use of a fixed mould to manufacture your product.
  • Flexibility: 3D printing is a flexible solution to prototype your product. Print your design, test it and re-print it with some minor adjustments. A fast and flexible way to create prototype in days.
  • No tooling involved: 3D printing allows you to print your product on demand. It is supportive of an iterative development process and is a quick way to obtain your product.

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Transparent 3D printing?

Transparent 3D printing is a whole other league in the 3D printing market. As a showcase example different reference samples of a variety of additive manufacturing services were measured. In the image below different samples are displayed.            

In order to print transparent products different 3D printing technologies can be used. Below are the most common technologies further explained.

Printoptical © Technology

Printoptical © Technology

Printoptical © Technology is a proprietary digital additive manufacturing process to 3D-print transparent products without visible layering. Printoptical Technology by Luxexcel does not require any additional post-processing like grinding or polishing. The printed product is immediately ready for use out straight out of the printer.

Stereolithography (SLA)

Stereolithography (SLA) makes use of a laser to cure the material. Photopolymer resins are to print the product. The resin reacts to a laser and is therefore cured. This technology will display some layers which could lead to scattering of for example light. Additional post-processes like sanding or polishing are required to become fully transparent.

Multi Jet Modeling (MJM)

Multi Jet Modeling is an industrial 3D printing technology which makes use of a wax support structure. Layers of material are jetted by a print head and the process is quite similar as SLA technologies. makes use of a support structure of wax. After  the product is printed the wax support material is melted away which leaves a completed end-product. Multi Jet Modeling is known for its accuracy in printing. In order to obtain a fully transparent product your products needs to be polished after printing.

Polyjet (Objet)

Polyjet 3D printing is a technology which makes use of a photopolymer which is cured with UV-light. It makes use of two jetting heads to print the model and the support structure. The model is build layer by layer and afterwards the printed material is rinsed away. The printed model has to be polished in order to become more smooth and transparent.

3D printing with Printoptical Technology were to start?

Every 3D printing process starts with the creation of a CAD file. This digital model can be created by making use of a variety of software programmes. In order to make a printable model different design requirements have to be taken in account. At Luxexcel we work with a unique 3D printing technology called Printoptical © Technology. It is the only 3D printing technology which can print functional optics without post-processing. If you would like to work with Printoptical Technology for your next optical prototype, please download the design guidelines sheet.

Topics: 3D printing

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