To perform 3d printing, the 3d printing machine reads the 3d design from a .stl file and then the 3d printer lays down successive layers of liquid (such as plastic), powder, paper or sheet material to build the model from a series of cross sections. These layers, which correspond to the virtual cross sections from the CAD model, are joined or automatically fused to create the final shape. The primary advantage of this technique is its ability to create almost any shape or geometric feature quickly.
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3D Printer resolution describes layer thickness and X-Y resolution in dpi (dots per inch), or micrometers. Typical layer thickness is around 100 micrometers, although some 3D Printers such as the Objet Connex series and 3D Systems’ ProJet series can print layers as thin as 16 µm. X-Y resolution is comparable to that of laser printers. The particles (3D dots) are around 50 to 100 µm in diameter.
Printing of a 3d product design CAD model drawing with contemporary methods can take anywhere from several hours to several days, depending on the method used and the size and complexity of the model. Additive systems can typically reduce this time to a few hours, although it varies widely depending on the type of 3d printing machine used and the size and number of product models being produced simultaneously.
Traditional techniques like injection molding can be less expensive for manufacturing products in high quantities, but additive manufacturing which is now known as 3d printing can be faster, more flexible and less expensive when producing relatively small quantities of parts. 3D printers give designers and concept development teams the ability to produce parts and concept models quickly with 3d printing because costly molds are not required.
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