Well, before I started thinking of actually making some stuff, I started informing myself on what the available technologies are and what they are capable of right now.
To my knowledge, there is 3 different types of 3D printers right now (or 3 major ones at least).
Well, let’s start making a list here, incredibly entertaining, isn’t it?
- The first, and most accessible is what they call “Fused Deposition Modelling”.
What they do there is quite similar to the desktop printer you probably have sitting right next to you right now. It has a printhead that melts a string of ABS plastic and puts it on a plate through a jet, the plastic hardens quickly, and when it’s done with a layer, it just moves up and prints the next “slice” on top of the first and so on.
My description obviously is close to perfect! Still, I’d like to give you Makerbot’s website here so you can check it out for yourself, its astonishingly simple. (Makerbot is not the cheapest but it’s the one I’ve heard the most of up to now)
Also, this kind of printer starts at aroung 800-1000 € (Yup, Europe, as I said!).http://makerbot.com/
- The second type I know of is called “Stereolitography”.
This one has lasers.
These lasers, when they hit a liquid that is made to react to a certain wavelength of light, harden the resin. After they are done with a slice of that, it moves along the z-axis (up or down) and does the same thing again.
These Printers are priced a little bit higher than the “Fused Deposit Modelling” ones, but they tend to be more accurate that them.
It’s amazing to see these at work. Take a look at it yourself.http://formlabs.com/
- The third one is known as “Digital Light Processing”.
This one is not yet ready for consumer markets, it is huge and bulky, but the amazing thing is that it can print overhangs, moving parts, colors, and vary the “hardness” of the prints.
How does it work?
It has a couple of printheads that work similarly to the ones in an inkjet printer. Some of them are for colour, and one is for a binder material. The print process is done by these printheads apllying the binder to a powder, again, slice after slice.
Once it is done with one slice, more powder comes in, and it does the next.
This video explains it quite well, its kind of cheesy though ;)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrrF_MVMlZw
This is just a brief introduction to one small part of the toolset used by the “Maker-Movement”, it is actually one of the less important ones, but it is really hyped at the Moment.