A CDE Definition
Building prototypes and finished parts in a machine from powdered thermoplastics and metals that are cured by heat from a laser. From CAD drawings that have been cross sectioned into thousands of layers, the machine builds up the part by curing one layer at a time. Powder is added for the next layer, and at the end of the job, the excess powder is removed and recycled for the next product. Also called "selective laser sintering" (SLS), it is one of several additive fabrication technologies used in rapid prototyping and rapid manufacturing. See 3D printing for an overview of the major methods.
Metal Laser Sintering
Plastic Laser Sintering
The making of parts and products using a computer-driven, additive process, one layer at a time. 3D printing builds parts out of plastic, metal and other materials directly from CAD drawings that have been cross sectioned into thousands of layers. Sizes of printed objects run the gamut from approximately 16 to 4,000 cubic inches; however, Shanghai-based WinSun built huge machines to print house walls and trusses. See 3D printing materials.
Used for making prototypes as well as final products, 3D printing evolved from the "rapid prototyping" industry, pioneered by Chuck Hull of 3D Systems in the mid-1980s. It provides a faster and less costly alternative to machining (cutting, turning, grinding and drilling solid materials).
Concept, Prototype and Final Product
Capable of making a part from scratch in hours, or just minutes for small objects, 3D printing is used to create models to determine if a design meets the customer's expectations. It is also used to create prototypes of parts to test their form, fit and function with other parts in an assembly.
Laser sintering and electron beam melting technologies turned "rapid prototyping" into "rapid manufacturing," in which short runs of actual finished parts are made. These techniques are used to create products customized for humans as well, including hearing aids, dental crowns and medical implants.
3D printing is also used to make tooling molds and dies, as well as patterns for castings. Either the actual mold or the model to make the mold can be produced more quickly and economically than with conventional methods.
One Layer at a Time
All 3D printers are "additive fabrication" machines that build one layer after the other. The layers can be as thin as 1/1,000th of an inch or much thicker. The building material can be a liquid, powder or sheet material that is cured by heat, UV light, a chemical reaction or other method. The thickness exception is the cement mixture used by WinSun to print house walls in China. Following are the more common methods used to print 3D objects. See 3D printer, personal 3D printer, nanofactory and STL.
The Bible of 3D Printing
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
Electron Beam Melting (EBM)
3D Printing in Colors
Jetting Liquid Polymer
Before/After Your Search Term
|laser diode||Laser Turntable|
|laser disc||laser TV|
|laser HDTV||laser weapon|
|Laser Jet printer||LaserJet|
|laser mouse||LaserJet printer|
|Laser Phosphor Display||LaserMaster|
|laser radar||last mile|
Terms By Topic
Click any of the following categories for a list of fundamental terms.