3D printing

Process:   Processes include: Selective laser sintering where tiny particles of material are fused together by heat from a high-power laser to form a solid, three-dimensional object; Stereolithography where liquid plastic material is converted into 3D objects, layer by layer, using polymerization, a process by which light causes chains of molecules to link, forming polymers; Fused deposition modelling, a process in which a model or part is produced by extruding small flattened strings of molten material to form layers; Multi-jet modelling, where a model is layered by a print head with several linearly arranged nozzles producing small droplets of material.

Introduced:   1980s

Plastics:   Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, acrylonitrile styrene acrylate, polyamide, polycarbonate, polyethylene terephthalate, polylactic acid, polypropylene, soluble butenediol vinyl alcohol co-polymer, soluble high impact polystyrene, soluble polyvinyl acetate, thermoplastic elastomer, thermoplastic polyurethane.

Marks:   Depends on the process; sintering lines can be seen unless there has been significant hand finishing.

Tooling cost:   Programming costs are high

Production volume:   Low due to time it takes to print pieces

Uses:   3D printing has many applications of small runs of objects including: rapid prototyping and product development, clothing, apparel and jewellery, customised objects and bespoke pieces including soluble and non-soluble medical applications, automotive and aeronautical applications such as components.