Friday, December 6, 2013

The basics (and more!) of 3D Printing

For those of you interested in the basics of 3D printing, this video (4:16) is a nice overview by Avi Reichental, CEO of 3D Systems.  I think he says a lot of important things, but most of all: "There's always exciting opportunities and unintended consequences."  Isn't that always the truth with any new technology?

PS: Below is a picture of me & Avi (on the left).  I saw him speak at the Engadget Expand conference in March 2013.  After the panel discussion, I was walking around, and there he was! I asked him if I could take a picture with him.  He laughed and said, "Sure!"  The CEO of 3D Systems is my kind of celebrity!  While I am at it, in the picture on the right, I am standing with Keith Murphy, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Organovo.  He even agreed to Skype my class when we move to our cells unit!  (I met him at the Inside 3D Printing Conference in San Jose, CA.)  So exciting!

ANYway, for those of you looking for a little more detailed introduction of further education on 3D printing, I recommend a series of webinars I ran across recently.  This series of videos heavily leans towards the Stratasys machines, but addresses a variety of technologies.  Each webinar (of three) is presented by Chris MacBain of GoEngineer.  Here is the short list (with links to each video on YouTube) or you can keep reading to get a brief summary and embedded videos below.

Part 1: 3D Printing 101: What is 3D printing? (28:22)
Part 2: 3D Printing 201: Which 3D Printing Technology is Right for You? (32:51)
Part 3: 3D Printing 301: Applications of 3D Printing (27:22)

Part 1 starts at the very basics, and introduces the 3D printing technologies of PolyJet, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and Stereolithography (SLA).  Part 1 goes on to explain the workflow involved with 3D printing from CAD model >> STL file >> necessary printer prep >> slicing into layers >> 3D print.  Then, focusing on Stratasys machines, MacBain goes into more detail about PolyJet and FMD 3D printing technology, including pros and cons of each (especially in regards to the support material) as well as current applications.

Part 2 goes into more depth with the technology, and pros and cons of each type: FDM, PolyJet, SLS, ZCorp, Multi-Jet Modeling (MJM), SLA.  I enjoy his refreshing honesty when discussing the drawbacks of each.

Part 3 goes into some advanced applications with functional prototypes, manufacturing tooling,  concept modeling, and end use parts.  My personal favorite quote comes early in the webinar, when MacBain is discussion the many references to 3D printing in the media and public events.  These references or demonstrations often involve printing something visually appealing but relatively useless (at BPC, we are partial to printing yellow ducks, or 6-link chains to show off our printers).  MacBain says, "It almost does 3D printing a disservice because it is so much more than a machine to build trinkets, or cool little parts..."

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