3D printing has revolutionised the world of technology. From medical aids to artificial body parts, the potential is limitless and as researchers and developers test the boundaries of this awe-inspiring tech, the software used continues to develop to support this substantial growth.
The History of 3D Printing
From its early days until now, the technology behind 3D printing has developed massively, to the point where it has become one of the fastest and most efficient ways of constructing a 3D object. The 1980s was an era defined by the rise of computer technology, not just padded shoulders and spandex pants. It was at this time when early additive manufacturing was first developed, however, the techniques were limited to suit just the production of functional or aesthetic products for the purpose of showing a prototype. In this day in age, the precision, repeatability, and range of materials of 3D printing have expanded so considerably that some of the available processes are viewed as viable as industrial production methods.
A big advantage of 3D printing over other production methods is the way that it can create detailed and complex shapes that would otherwise be impossible to construct by hand. When parts are required to be hollow for the purpose of reducing the weight, a 3D printer can produce this kind of object a lot quicker than any other method can. In recent years, the technology behind the method has advanced so much that even the average consumer can enter the world of 3D printing – it is no longer a technology reserved for the rich and affluent. Good quality 3D printers can be found for as cheap as $200 making them an affordable addition to any gadget-loving buyer.
The Software Behind the Technology
3D printable models are first designed in a computer-aided design (or CAD) software package. The models that these packages can create tend to be flawless and can therefore be a reliable method for printing objects. Any flaws that are found can be identified and amended before printing even begins. Designs can be created from scratch or taken via a 3D scanner, which collects the digital data of a real-life object before creating a virtual model based on the information it collects. Whichever way the data is procured, it is then saved in a CAD file format to be sent to and printed by the 3D printer.
How to Choose the Right Software
Now you know you need it; how do you go about finding the best modelling software for your 3D printing? Do you need software that supports organic, freehand designs or one that create precise design applications for engineering applications? The truth is that 3D modelling software is a crucial component of designing and preparing your 3D printed objects, so it’s worth the time and effort of investigating the various options to find the one that suits you best.
Things To Consider:
Purpose: Think carefully about the items you are planning to design and create. Some modelling software is better used in creating artistic items while other platforms are more useful in the field of engineering. If you are using the wrong tool for the job, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to reach the goal so make sure to get the right software.
Cost: The price range of 3D printer software can stretch from nothing to over $5,000 so you need to choose one that will fit your budget. If you’re just starting out, you don’t need to spend a lot of money – free modelling software will probably do just what you need as you start to learn the ropes. On the other hand, you get what you pay for so not every free package is going to do the job. It’s best to take your time and adjust according to your needs and budget.
Usability: Not all software packages are straightforward to use so it’s good to look for a program that’s more user-friendly. There are some packages that have great tutorials and support teams who can provide a customer-orientated experience and facilitates fast and efficient work.
File Conversions: To make the process of printing the parts you design a whole lot smoother, you need to make sure you find a 3D printing software package that ensures the files are robust when saved. 3D printing uses an STL file type so make sure the software package will save the data into this type of file.
Definitions: Creating 3D models requires various stages as part of the software package which you need to be aware of – modelling, drawing, designing and computer-aided designing. When you fully understand the terms of the process you’ll be able to find a package that does them all.
Parametric or Explicit Modelling: The fact that you’re even looking into these two options proves you’re not a beginner in the 3D printing world! If you’re not, these are the two distinct methods for 3D geometry. With parametric modelling, the method typically used by engineers and architects, the file contains more specific dimensions and can include the history of a design. Explicit modelling is more commonly used by artists and industrial designers due to its greater flexibility. It allows for changes to be made quickly without having massive repercussions on another defined point of the geometry.
The Applications Are Endless
With such a versatile technology, the potential for application is quite phenomenal. In the food industry, additive manufacturing of food is created by squeezing out food and layering it up to form a 3D object. Food from chocolate to pizza can be used in this way! 3D printed clothing is starting to revolutionise the fashion industry, designing unique, customised items. 3D printing is starting to transform both unibody and fuselage design, along with powertrain design production, in the transportation industry. Within the health sector, surgeons are using 3D printing replacement joints and organs. 3D printing, along with the use of industrial powder coating, fixtures, etc., is also used in various manufacturing sectors to produce high-quality and durable products.
It’s clear to see that this technology is only going from strength to strength and the future is in 3D!