Before even showing off the interesting things we make at Manhattan Makerspace, it's probably good to start off by asking ourselves, "what exactly is 3D printing" and "how can they turn plastic into complex shapes before my very eyes".
In my undergraduate, 3D printing was always presented in a sense that this is a technology you would only see in a professional setting - multi-thousand dollar tools that have to be calibrated for hours and worked by the most experienced of engineers. While they occasionally do have to be calibrated for hours, 3D printing entered the hobbyist sphere, and more importantly, the open-source sphere. It is not only possible to purchase a 3D printer for a reasonable price, but to find the instructions online and, with some luck, put one together from scratch.
FDM Printing FDM (standing for fused deposition modeling) is probably the most iconic of 3D printing methods. One layer is stacked on top of the other, over and over, until eventually it spits out the particular item you requested (or, a blob of molten plastic). Most function on an X-Y-Z sort of configuration (that is, moving on 3 axes), or they can occasionally designed in a circular configurations (called a delta printer). Compared to other 3D printing methods, there are a number of pros and cons, Pros • Tends to be very approachable to hobbyists (economical and easy to set up) • Uses relatively cheap materials (PLA and ABS plastics are generally 15-20$) • Software to run is often opensource and easy to use • Generally very fast, making for quick prototyping • A wide variety of materials can be used (PLA, ABS, PETG, Nylons, TPU, etc) Cons • Has a lower limit on detail (limited to about 0.08mm on the z and 0.2 in the x-y) • Slightly more dangerous than others, with a hot end reaching 180-260 °C • Compared to other systems, tends to require more babysitting or adjustment
SLA Printing SLA (Stereolithography) printing is a relatively new printing method to the hobbyspace, though it was invented in 1986. The use of UV cured resins, high density LCD panels, and very accurate leadscrews, allows for a highly accurate model. While they have some of the best accuracy that can be had in a 3D printer, it has some major drawbacks, Pros • Some of the most accurate prints you can get (down to 0.01mm) • Printers generally come as a unit and work out of the box with little calibration • Very complex shapes can be made that FDM printers cannot do Cons • The use of resin, which is toxic and needs to be handled with gloves in a ventilated area • Lots of consumables are used (isopropyl alcohol for cleaning, gloves, filters, etc) • Resin is on the whole much more expensive (about 25-30$+ for 1 kg)
SLS Printing Selective Laser Sintering is what comes to mind when most people think of 3D printing in the professional workspace. Very similar to FDM printing, but a new layer of dust (nylon, other plastics, or even metals) is piled on each layer - with a laser fusing together the that layer. Once the layer is made, another layer of material is (often rolled) on top of the previous layer, and lasered again. Pros • Allows the use of exotic materials, and even metals for industrial applications Cons • Extraordinarily expensive and inaccessible to the hobbyspace (currently)
Manhattan Makerspace is able to make use of the first 2 options, while having contacts to allow for SLS printing on demand. We're excited to show off some of the things that we've made with these various 3D printing methods in different posts.