Have you ever had a design in your head, but no idea how to convert that design into a real object? As technology is advancing each day, it might not be as hard as you thought to print your design. 3D printing have been taking a variety of industries by storm, with more and more people making use of 3D printers to create models, mock up products and art work to name a few.

Although the concept of 3D printing might be new to some, it has been around since the 1980’s. The process of producing a 3D printed object back then was a lot more costly and time consuming than manufacturing the exact same object using traditional methods. As technology evolved the printer’s quality and processes improved tremendously. Today we have a wide variety of different 3D printers available on the market. You would be able to purchase a mini 3D printer for as little as US$ 250. This opened a world of possibilities for engineers, architects and designers, as your design is limited to your idea or creativity.

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Even though the 3D printer prices can start as low as US$ 250 it can also go up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. There are different methods of printing for example, FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling), SLA (Stereolithography), DLP (Digital Light Processing), SLS (Selective Laser Sintering), SLM (Selective Laser Melting), EBM (Electron Beam Melting), LOM (Laminated object Manufacturing), BJ (Binder Jetting), Polyjet Technology and MJ (Material Jetting/ Wax Casting). I would like to discuss only two of these printing methods, FDM and Polyjet technology.

FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) is a 3D printing method that can print a heavy-duty objects from the same type of plastics you would find in everyday products. The 3D printer takes a spool of plastic filament, melt’s it and extrudes it onto a tray building the item layer by layer from the bottom upwards. The materials used for the FDM printing is industrial grade thermoplastics and this allows the objects printed to be extremely durable. This method of printing is changing the way that industries design and manufacture objects, as lead times and costs are cut by printing the objects instead. This method of printing has opened up an entire new world for architectural, design, mechanical and medical fields to name a few.

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Polyjet technology is a 3D printing method that allows you to create a wide variety of objects in different colours as well as different material properties like durability and heat resistance etc. The printer works similar to that of an ordinary inkjet printer but instead of printing with drops of ink, it drops liquid drops of plastic, which with the help of the printers UV light, solidifies the liquid drops. Some of the most advanced polyjet printers can print multiple material parts in one object. The amount of waste created while printing objects is a lot less than that of the other manufacturing methods. In time printing the objects could save costs as well as time.

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There are so many objects that are currently being printed, Dubai boasts with the first ever 3D printed building. By printing this building the labour cost was around 50% less compared to the conventional buildings of a similar size. The entire office took only 17 days to print and as the technology advances I am sure that we will see more 3D printing in the construction sector. The possibilities seems endless. It might only be a matter of a time before we sit in our 3D printed houses, printing objects from our own 3D printers instead of going to the store.

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