6 Things to Know About 3D Printing

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(DGIwire) – Excited about 3D printing? There are many amazing things about this breakthrough technology, such as how quickly it is evolving and the sheer range of items that can be created using 3D printers. But those two are just a start—here are five other fascinating facts about this futuristic-but-real technology:

  • 3D printing was born in the 1980s: In 1984, Chuck Hull invented a process called sterolithography. This involved the use of ultraviolet lasers to solidify a class of materials called photopolymers, enabling the creation of 3D parts layer by layer, according to CNN.
  • 3D printing was first conceived for prototyping: Taking its roots in manufacturing, 3D printing was originally used primarily for prototyping products, reports 3dprintingindustry.com. And in fact, many companies continue to use “rapid prototyping” to save money—although it is also used to create a vast array of finished products as well.
  • 3D printing is in the movies: Props can take hours of hard work to create and apply. With 3D printing, many of those props can be created and re-created faster, easier and without starting from scratch. 3D printing techniques have been used for movies ranging from The Hobbit to The Avengers, reports industry blog i.materialise.
  • 3D printing is being used for education: Principles of art, design, entrepreneurship and engineering can be introduced with increasingly simple 3D modeling tools, according to 3Dprint.com. As its presence in classrooms grows, so will the growth of the next generation of artists, designers and entrepreneurs raised on the technology.
  • 3D printed parts are useful in the aerospace industry. According to 3dPrintingIndustry.com, the Juno spacecraft that recently went into orbit around Jupiter is the first spacecraft to feature 3D printed parts: its titanium waveguide brackets. Along with NASA, many other companies are interested in incorporating 3D printed parts into airplanes and space vehicles.
  • Quality assurance technology is being integrated into 3D printing. Sigma Labs, Inc. has developed a proprietary, patent-protected, quality assurance software suite called PrintRite3D® that transforms the 3D printing process. In contrast to traditional quality assurance that is performed after-the-fact, PrintRite3D® works in real-time to assist quality inspectors in sorting acceptable from suspect components.

“It is crucial to ensure that the 3D-printed parts being manufactured for use in the aerospace industry, as well as in other fields, conform to the specifications required for optimal performance,” says Mark J. Cola, President and CEO of Sigma Labs. “We have developed technology that integrates quality assurance directly into the 3D printing process.”

The PrintRite3D® suite benefits aerospace companies and medical companies that are 3D-printing metal parts in several ways. The first involves metallurgy: in addition to optimizing the structure/property/parameter qualities of metal parts, Sigma Labs’ software allows engineers to assess each part’s microstructure—scanning and collecting data on potential weaknesses (like “pores” in the metal). The second benefit involves geometry: the software helps capture images of every layer of metal as it is being incorporated into the part; this data, available digitally, gives inspectors the ability to detect any distortion as parts are made and adjust the machine accordingly in real-time. Finally, the software enhances a company’s productivity by collecting Big Data regarding the performance of multiple 3D printers at multiple locations into a single database.

With a core facility in Santa Fe, NM, Sigma Labs offers clients a comprehensive one-stop shop for 3D metal printing and process engineering; alternately, Sigma Labs can offer its suite to clients at their own facilities.

“As time goes by, the chances that someone has utilized a 3D printed part in the course of their daily life goes up,” adds Cola. “Whether riding in an airplane with 3D-printed parts or utilizing a 3D-printing medical device, it is a part of our everyday reality.”