Imagine creating a virtual building on the computer and then printing it out in 3D. Sounds like something out of science fiction, but 3D printers have been around for quite some time. Most of us are familiar with inkjet printers; however, 3D printers may become as popular as their counterpart in the not so distant future.
Chuck Hull patented what is known as solid imaging, and founded the company 3D Systems in the 1980s, long before the internet became popular. The idea was to help industries turn their virtual samples into 3D material in a shorter period than it would take to build a 3D scale model.
The 3D printer is noticeably different from the normal inkjet or laser printers. The 3D printer has a platform on which the scale is built from the bottom up.
Instead of ink, the 3D printer disburses plastic polymers or a thick wax to create a scale model. For instance, a construction project of a building would begin with the 3D printer dispensing the floor material. The printer mechanism runs back and forth disbursing the building material for the floor, then the walls, and eventually the roof.
The computer 3D model of your construction project converts to the STL format, which stands for standard tessellation language. Transfer the file to the computer connected to the 3D printer.
Fill the 3D printer with wax or other materials in which to build the model. Once the printer is turned on, don’t expect instant results. The process can take hours or even a day or more, depending on the scale model size.
Don’t touch the model until it has cooled sufficiently. Doing so could cause injury and damage the model before it has a chance to stiffen and solidify.
Practice with a 3D model by building simple structures first. Once you’re comfortable with it, branch out to more intricate designs.
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