3D printer are increasingly attracting the market, and high-tech enthusiasts in particular are delighted with these devices that produce three-dimensional objects instead of printed paper. Whether advanced industry products, simple hobbies or even firearms, many can be manufactured using a 3D printer. But how does a 3D printer really work and what exactly is behind it? We want to explore these and other questions in the next article.



What is a 3D printer?

3D printers have been used in industry for several years, for example, to produce prototypes or parts, using techniques like laser sintering or laser fusing. However, these machines can cost around EUR 200,000 and therefore it is impossible to pay a small man. For some time now, there have been special 3D printers that work with the process of fused printing and cast plastic that is pressed through a nozzle. The desired part is produced layer by layer. Although these devices are in competition with the quality and accuracy of an industrial machine, an accuracy of 0.1 mm is already possible.


What materials are used in 3D printing?

3D printers usually work with thermoplastic PLA, but ABS is also used here. The PLA is quite easy to use. A special advantage is the small shrinkage of the parts after cooling. Unfortunately, PLA parts are not as solid and the material softens again at temperatures above 60 degrees. Although PLA is biodegradable, it requires a special procedure that can hardly be performed on particular composers. In addition to PLA, there is ABS plastic that softens only 100 degrees and is also much more stable than PLA. Examples of ABS use are Lego blocks. However, the main disadvantage of ABS is that the plastic shrinks more when cooled, which means that in 3D printing, a heating platform should be used to at least greatly delay cooling and allow more accurate operation.


3D printing affordable at home?

At the moment, the 3D home printer is still good, although there are now models, like the MakerBot Replicater 2, that not only look good, but are also high quality, but are expensive so far. For a really useful device, you need to dig deep into your pocket, because below “$2,000” there are only “toys” that cannot be used to produce really useful parts.


Unit levels are available from around $300, which means that 3D printing is now affordable even for small budgets, although it is cheaper in China. But with this it is still possible to produce the appropriate parts with the 3D printing process. Here, however, you should be aware that you should not set too high expectations with regard to part quality.