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3d printing in architecture

3D Printng in Architecture: Seeing is Believing

[social_warfare] Architecture is one of the most competitive industries today. Clients now have a vast variety of choices, making architects face tough competition. Architectural firms need to present their designs in the best possible manner to win a project.

They also need to constantly innovate their designs in order to be recognized and highlighted. To motivate and inspire their clients, architects need to present physical models that best communicate the idea by showcasing the depth, dimensions and textures of a potential project.

To meet such requirements, using 3D models and generating 3D information have become a standard among leading architects today. 3D printing in architecture has made it possible to develop an easy workflow that takes 3D information and convert it into physical models.

In the past, models were made by traditional methods using foam, acrylics and cardboard, which is much more labor-intensive for model-makers. The rise of 3D printing helped streamline the process. Once the 3D file is ready, you can get the 3D print of your design concept overnight.

3D Model-Making Services by Proto21:

Benefits of 3D Printing in the Architecture Industry:

Numerous architecture and model-making companies in Dubai have reaped the benefits of 3D printing for their model-making needs. The following are the major advantages of using 3D printing in architecture:

  • Cost Savings: Traditional model-making is tedious and labor-intensive, resulting in the need for high investments for a single model. On the other hand, 3D printing reduces model-making costs to more than 50% due to the automated process and low wastage of material.
  • Short Lead Times: Handmade models take weeks and at times months to develop. With 3D printing, model-making becomes simply an overnight job.
  • Quality of Detail: 3D printing provides cutting-edge precision and accuracy. Standard qualities start from 100 microns and go up to 26 microns of details.
  • Better Communication: Printed 3D design is a way to present your projects to your clients in an interactive and engaging way. Clients can visualize your designs better and understand your concept design immediately. Seeing is believing!
  • Design Freedom: The beauty of 3D printing is that complexity is not a limit in additive manufacturing. Any design that is imaginable is physically possible. This gives full freedom to architects and artists to design without considering manufacturing limitations.
  • Scalability: No project is too small or too big for the technology. You can create models that will fit all your needs, from cityscapes and commercial buildings to home interiors exteriors and landscape.
  • Easy Iterations: Easily re-edit, reuse and reprint the models.
  • Easy Multiple Copies: Once the design file is ready, we can make as many copies as required.

Just like how hand drawings evolved to digital prints, handmade models have evolved into 3D printed models and transformed the world of design and architecture for good. To know more ways 3D printing is transforming the world today, discover our 3D printing services.

Design Rules of 3D Printing (DFAM)

3D Printer Design Rules

Anything which can be designed in digital space cannot be necessarily 3D printed. To identify the possibilities, it’s important to understand the rules to 3D printing.

In any type of manufacturing, there are specific rules and limitations that dictate how you must design your product before manufacturing process. The same goes for 3D printing processes. Because of the design restrictions, printers need to follow a number of 3D printing design rules whether it is for prototyping or for manufacturing end-use products.

3D printing can be a bit confusing. There are numerous software, different materials, printers and printing technologies. So, it is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The limitations in 3D printing are related to the primary mechanics of additive manufacturing process.

3D printing is no different from other additive manufacturing processes. There are characteristics of hardware, software, temperature, and filament and many other factors that should be focused in detail while designing in order to transform your digital model into a 3D printed object.

In this article, we will be discussing critical design considerations for a designer to avoid any mistakes while turning a 3D model into a 3D object. That what are the elements that should be looked after while creating components and parts for 3D printing? Understanding of these elements and the 3D printer design guidelines of each process will help the designer to master the process and able to manufacture certain 3D objects through 3D printing.

Digital vs. Physical

When designing for 3D printing, is it essential to keep in mind the fact that your digital design will end up as a tangible physical object? As far as digital designing is concerned, there's no law of physics to abide by, and the prime example is the gravity.

As what the experts say: “You can design any 3D object in a digital designing environment, but there is no such possibility or guarantee that you can print anything as a physical object especially in 3D printing.”

Every 3D printing technology has their own set of limits for printing procedure. Every 3D printing engineer must keep in mind the following things in prior consideration when printing a digital 3D object into a physical 3D object:

1. Consider ‘overhangs’ before 3D printing

Every 3D printing procedure will deliberately go by end-to-end layering and designing. It is nearly impossible to draw the 3D material on thin air which is the main reason that every 3D layer of the object must use some underline or withstanding material as support before the 3D object will get printed.

Talking about overhangs, they are an area of the 3D model which might occur to support the object layer or may not support the object at all. Most of the 3D printers usually have a limit of an angle which they can adjust when printing the object without needing to help the 3D material until the allowed object anglegets exceed. The mere examples are FDM and SLA because these technologies can hold up the object angle for not more than 45 degrees only.

It is better to keep the angel degree limits in consideration when 3D printing an object to avoid overhangs.

2. Try to keep a balance of 'Wall thickness' during 3D printing

Wall thickness is the second most important thing to keep in mind when designing a 3D object for printing. Most of the 3D printing procedure mainly compose the precise features of the 3D object which might be thin up to a certain level when printing them into a physical object.

For the better results, it is wise always to check the wall thickness of your models. For The successful printing of a 3D model, it is suggested to keep the wall thickness more than 0.8 millimeters.

3. Make sure ‘Warping’ doesn’t happen when 3D printing

Sometimes the thing which mostly overlooked while designing a 3D object is the materials. The fact they are unnoticed can make a lot of physical modification in your 3D model such as:

  • They may get melt
  • They may get sintered
  • They may get scanned by a laser and solidified

The warping of the 3D objects may occur during printing due to the heating and cooling of the materials.

The warping is more likely to happen when printing on a broad or flat surface. To avoid the warping while 3D printing your model, you must use an adequate surface area in grip with the proper usage of machine calibration. It is recommended to use a more circular edge for your 3D models for printing than using large and flat surfaces.

4. Always make sure the 'Level of detail' are up to the mark

Whenever printing a 3D model with a sophisticated level of details, it is essential to keep in the mind what can be the required feature size which 3D printer might be able to print.

The primary link of the mechanism of your 3D printer of the required level of detail for 3D printing is with the competences of the selected height of your object layers.

The material you will use in your 3D printing will decide the impact of your final 3D model. So, always try to make sure you have an adequate level of details set when 3D printing a design into a physical object.

Terminologies

Overhangs

What is an overhang in 3d printing? They are geometric shapes in a 3D model that have no material underneath them making layer-based 3D printing challenging. Overhangs are areas of a model that are partially supported by the layer below or not supported at all. There is a limit on the angle in every printer can produce out of support material. Some personal 3D printers must print support structures below to avoid the overhangs from immediately collapsing during printing. Some overhangs are acceptable still you can often

safely 3D print overhangs with as much as a 45 degrees angle overhang without any issue. If you are increasing the angle from 45 to above, then you are in the state of trouble, which in this case means droopy filament strands.

Wall thickness

Another thing to keep in mind when designing a part to be 3D printed is wall thickness. Wall thickness is the value that gives a 3D model strength and durability. Thin walls for larger surfaces can be crumbling by the printer just because it is unable to print it accurately. The thinner the wall is, the more fragile and disposed to damage and warping the model is. For the avoidance of getting damage figurine, setting up a thicker wall thickness will ensure resistance to the pressure you apply when removing support and processing the model after printing.

Level of Detail

When you are creating a 3D model with intricate details, it is important to keep in mind what is the minimum feature size each 3D printing process can produce. The minimum level of detail is connected to the capabilities and mechanics of each 3D printing process and to the selected layer height.
The process and materials used will have an impact on the speed and cost of your print, so determining whether smaller details are critical to your model is an important design decision.

Horizontal Bridge Gap

Bridging is when we print a flat, horizontal part of the model midair. While using a support structure for such a role could be a solution, it often works to bridge the gap without using support. We will have to drag lines of plastic between already printed parts, in a way that the plastic won’t fall down when being printed.

Supported Walls

Fused Deposition Modeling happens on a building platform. Since models will be “built in the air”, they should be affixed to the supporting platform to keep them from crumbling. This joining is indicated as the “support” and is required for any model built utilizing this innovation. While keeping the model set up, it additionally empowers the development of components that stand out. After the making of building procedure is finished, the help is physically expelled. If it’s not too much trouble take note of that your model may show noticeable confirmation of the removed support structures.

Escape Holes

An escape hole is usually involved when creating an object with a hollowed-out center. A borehole diameter of 2mm is recommended these type of escape holes is required to remove unfused material from the interior, just leaving the printed object behind. A technique that saves on price, since less material is the result.

Pin Diameter

The minimum pin diameter is known to be 1 millimeter. Even though smaller diameters are possible, 1 mm is the advised diameter to be used as it helps in maintaining the contour shape of the object.

Connecting and Moving Parts

3D printing encloses a wide range of technologies. Some more than others are particularly efficient to create complicated assemblies. However, as the technologies are evolving, we’ve reached a point where almost all of them can create part with moving components like a hinge or a joint. If we’re often looking at SLS 3D printing as the best solution for that, since we only need to remove the uninterred powder to “free” the moving parts, technologies like FDM or Polyjet have also brought solutions to add a “support material” that will be removed

with a solvent after the printing process. In any cases, regardless to the technologies you’re using, it’s now widely accepted that 3D printing technologies allow for integrated assemblies. Some with more facilities than other.

Tolerance

the tolerances and precisions of some 3D printing technologies are sufficient to create assembly that will simply “snap” together or will even be used for high performance goals. As a example, General Electric released a video showing how they successfully used additive manufacturing to create a fully working jet engine. The result is astonishing.With appropriate tolerances, parts with functional hinges, chain-link style textiles, and other types of moving components can be fabricated in a single print without the need for post-print assembly. This is one of the main upside of 3D printing when you want to manufacture a product since it can considerably reduce the number of necessary components to create your end product.

Rule of thumb

There are different 3D printing processes, but the basic rules and guidelines are more or less the same in each process and vary depending on the material and type of 3D printing process being used. DfAM (Design for Additive Manufacturing) is a big umbrella which includes all the rules, considerations and parameters needed in additive manufacturing processes.

3D printing technology is advancing rapidly,and there are demand and need of designing and making more intricate, elaborate and workable objects. There are specific procedures which are necessary when making a physical object and similar guidelines are mentioned in the DfAM ‘Rule of Thumb’. These rules are fundamental when designing and implementing your 3D model.

The 3D models to be designed must firstly fit the 3D printer build volume and either lie flat on the build plate or be supported. Support is one of the most keys, and critical part of the metal printing process and the measurements, placement, and geometry should be correct to prevent waste of materials, printing time and cost. The alignment and positioning must consider during the design stages as upward facing surfaces have sharper edges and a better surface finish.

The process and materials used will affect the speed and cost of your 3D print, so it is better to determine the smaller details which are critical to your design. One should avoid large flat surfaces and round the corners to prevent warping. Determine the minimum level of detail your 3D model require and choose the 3D printing process accordingly.

ABS or PLA

ABS Vs. PLA in 3D Printing

Should you use ABS or PLA in 3D printing?

You can print numerous things through a 3D printer but the most significant factor to consider is using the correct material for your print. There are so many aspects which play a part in making an accurate print which includes the strength, flexibility, and reliability of the printing material.

The two most famous 3D printing materials are ABS and PLA. Both the materials are the type of thermoplastics which allow to shape them when heated and form a particular pattern when there are cool. Most of FDM printers are optimized to print either the ABS or PLA material, but there are some key PLA & ABS differences you need to be aware of.

Introduction to both:

ABS stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, three monomers mixed and linked together. Used in array of industries worldwide, well known for its exceptional mechanical properties. ABS is stronger with higher temperature resistance, but it has bad odour. ABS prints also tend to warp easily when cooled down instantly after printing therefore it is printed in an enclosed chamber. It is not suitable for food contact & in-vivo applications.

PLA stands for Polylactic acid, originally developed as bio-plastic. PLA is derived from plant starches found in potatoes, corn and soy. PLA works for wide range of 3D printing applications because it is so easy to use. It is very rigid and actually quite strong but is very brittle at the same time.

*Sourced from MakeItFrom**Sourced from Optimatter for a test specimen with 100% infill, 0.2mm layer height printed in a linear pattern*** Sourced from Amazon ABS & PLA

Strength:

ABS can withstand more stress and has high structural integrity than PLA. The PLA is mostly used for generic purposes. ABS will distort and bend before breaking whereas PLA more brittle and break under stress. In strength test, PLA withstands more weight before breaking.

Both the ABS and PLA are adequate to 3D print any object due to having similar tensile strengths, but there are some applications which are suitable for one of the two materials.

Surface finish and post-processing:

For both ABS and PLA, the print layers are quite visible after printing. Although PLA tends to have a good finish and gives out better surface quality than ABS. Both the ABS and PLA prints require can be sanded and drilled after printing, but extra care is needed with the PLA print.

ABS has a matte finish, whereas in PLA prints are shinier. In post-processing ABS prints, Acetone can be used to smooth the layers and give it a glossy finish. ABS can be easily sanded and is often machined (for example, drilled) after printing, on other hand PLA post processing requires care.

Heat Resistance:

For high-temperature applications, ABS is more appropriate to use than PLA as it has glass transition temperature of 105°C compared to 60°C. PLA will rapidly sag and deform as the temperature increases and reaches 60°C or more.

Biodegradability:

PLA is steady in normal environmental conditions however it will biodegrade within 50 days in industrial waste and three years in water, ABS, however, is not biodegradable but can be recycled with different industrial processes.

Applications:

ABS due to its strength, thermal stability and flexibility are used to make applications such as plastic toys, electronic housings, and car parts. PLA known for its aesthetic quality is used to manufacture bioplastics, plastic cups and also medical implants.

Melting Point:

ABS primarily has a high melting point. The standard temperature for printing is 230°C while the glass transition temperature is at 105°C.

For PLA it is recommended to operate within 60º C, the material will start to melt at temperatures between 180°C to 220°C. The glass transition temperature for PLA is at 60°C to 65°C.

Print Settings:

For ABS a heated bed is required as the material tends to warp. A person also needs correct ventilation as the fumes from ABS are unpleasant and more toxic than PLA. Careful precautions are required during the melting process as it may cause skin, eye or respiratory irritation.

The PLA is complete opposite when it comes to fumes as PLA exude sweet odor as it uses the sugar-based material. It is more convenient to use and would not warp or crack during printing.

Each of the materials requires a dry location for storage as both are susceptible to moisture.

Accuracy:

Accuracy of the prints primarily depends upon the FDM’s quality and print settings. ABS and PLA filaments can be printed at 60-100 microns layer height. PLA can print complex objects where you can print a vertical overhang up to 68 degrees as compared to only 45 degrees in ABS

Midair connections or bridges also print reliably with PLA particularly with a longer distance between anchor points. But whether you use ABS or PLA, it is recommended to use a raft and make sure your built plate is flat and level.

Conclusion:

Both materials offer different advantages. ABS is known for structural integrity whereas PLA is better known for its aesthetic quality.

PLA is convenient and safer to use but is brittle and break under stress. It is more user friendly and gives a good 3D printing experience. On the other hand, ABS is stronger and more flexible but printing with ABS is not easy to handle.

Whereas, ABS is stronger and more flexible but printing with ABS is not easy to handle.

3D Printing vs Injection Molding

When it comes to the discussion of 3D printing vs. injection printing, which is better for your business? Both technologies have the same objective of manufacturing an object with the addition of the material.

Both injection molding and 3D printing serve the same purpose of rapid development of a design or a prototype. Though, 3D Printing has made life easier. Prototypes that used to cost thousands of dollars and days to produce can now be done overnight at a lower cost.

It has been common word out there that 3D printing is a good alternative to injection molding for rapid prototyping. What percentage of this is true, let’s discuss today.

Unit Production Costs & Order Volume

In terms of 3D printing vs. injection molding costs, the pricing depends on a number of factors. One of the most important involves the number of manufactured parts.

Before creating the final product, you are more likely to design a prototype first. Once you finalize the design, all you need to do is print the object into its final form. This whole cycle has a different approach towards cost when it comes to 3D printing and injection molding.

When it comes to unit prices, the unit costs of manufacturing the parts with 3D printing stay constant irrespective to the increase in the quantity.

When it comes to low volume production 3D printing serves to be the best option in terms of costs. On the other hand, injection molding becomes more practical if there is a large volume of parts that needs to be produced. Injection molding is ideal for rapidly producing very large numbers of identical parts with tight tolerances.

We have designed the following graph to compare the unit costs for both technologies:

Following factors that affect production unit price:

  • The number of units produced
  • The volume of the 3D printed object
  • The complexity of the object’s design

Manufacturing Time

The procedure for manufacturing a single part with injection molding is much faster than the same part done with 3D Printing. This is because 3D printing manufactures the models layer by layer.

On the other hand, during the injection molding process, a mold is filled with liquid plastic material. Depending on the size of the object, this could take a few seconds or minutes.

A print mold can be used for approximately 30 to 100 runs which depends on the material being injected along with the material and the kind of 3D printing technology and material used to produce the mold.

Material requirements of Injection molding process from 3D printed molds are as follows:

  • High heat deflection temperature
  • High stiffness required to reduce the wear caused by repetitive process
  • Accuracy and level of detail

Customization & Iterations

The ability to iterate and maintain agility are essential for any successful product prototyping. Spending a few thousand dollars on a mold which limits any changes for improving our product will most likely slow down our innovation cycle and cost us.

When it comes to customization then 3D printing wins the race here because if offers a virtual format of the object in which you can easily make customization as well as do modification. Making any type of modification or customization in injection molding is impossible.

Complexity

Complexity of the object can drastically affect the manufacturing procedure so it is up to you to opt for the best suitable technology for production. This depends on the model we have in mind and the output that we are expecting.

For hard engineering constraints and tolerances, injection molding wins. On the other hand, 3D Printing is better for complex designs. Every design is possible with 3D Printing due to its layer by layer structure. 3D printing allows you to be creative, giving you a freedom on possibilities on complex designs.

Quality & Finish of Parts Manufactured.

3D Printed prototypes are not typically finished parts. Due to its layer by layer manufacturing the resolution of prints can’t match with Injection molded parts. They require machining or sanding to remove small rough jagged edges. Moreover, the printed holes must be post processed for better accuracy.

On the other hand, injection molding is an industrial grade manufacturing technology which is made to provide high quality end user products. The final products are detailed with the finishes already applied.

Conclusion

Like injection molding, 3D printing also has its downsides. Today, many 3D printing processes are expensive, slow, and may produce parts that are not up to industry quality or material standards.

It is important to note that each technology has its own pros and cons. Depending upon your budget, time and requirement you can choose either. We at Proto21 can guide you and help you decide what technology is best suited for your project. Contact us now.

Proto21 introducing high-grade environmentally to GCC region.

Proto21 Introduces Eco-Friendly 3D Printing Materials to GCC Region

Proto21 3D Printing LLC, a Dubai based 3D printing startup, is proud to announce a distribution partnership with Filamentive Limited, a UK based company, to introduce their high-grade, eco-friendly 3D Printing filaments in the GCC region.

As a 3D printing business in the region, Proto21 found it challenging to find a local supplier of high quality 3D printing filaments. Trying the top brands, which were found to be expensive, with a long delivery time, which was inconvenient for rapid prototyping business.

During the hunt for reputed and high-quality filaments, Filamentive was a must try considering their environmental ideologies and responsibilities. After testing some spools of different materials and see highly satisfied results, Mr. Pir Arkam, the founder of Proto21 3D Printing LLC, immediately reached out to Mr. Ravi, the director of Filamentive, with a proposal to become a distribution partner in the GCC region in order to promote the idea of using recycled filaments for our better future.

What is the need for environmentally sustainable raw material in 3D Printing?

urrently, PLA is one of the most commonly used materials in 3D printing. While it is plant based, PLA is not the solution to the environmental concerns. Most importantly, PLA will challenge the food and energy security in the future. Also, PLA can take hundreds of years to breakdown naturally.

According to Mr. Pir Arkam, “90% of all plastics we use come from non-renewable sources. As 3D printing grows, this will only exacerbate the issue. It is a social responsibility of every 3D printing professional and company to address the environmental impacts of using plastics.”

Filamentive chooses to address environmental concerns with the use of recycled materials where possible without compromising on the quality of the product. All the Filamentive products are manufactured by recycled plastic materials, keeping the environment in mind. This ambitious organization has been globally recognized as “One of the Most Impactful Startups” by Web Summit in 2017.

The Partnership between Proto21 and Filamentive

“It is such a pleasure to introduce our recycled filaments in the exciting 3D Printing market of the Middle East, through a company possessing similar environment values,” Mr. Ravi Toor, founder of Filamentive stated. “Looking forward to working with Proto21 3D Printing LLC to spread our idea, serve the industry with our environment friendly filament and promoting the use of recycled filaments in 3D printing industry.”

All common filament material in FDM industry will be supplied by Proto21. The list of materials which will be available in the region include rPLA, PLA Cosmic rPET-G, rABS, ASA, Carbon Fiber & Wood fill. “Considering the rapid prototyping industry, we will ensure the fastest delivery with competitive prices,” Mr. Arkam said.

Used by more than 3000 makers, 3D Hubs, businesses and universities – this recyclable 3D printing material is now available in GCC countries (UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar) with Proto21 as the exclusive distributor in the region.

How 3D Printed Oil & Gas Models Help You Stand Out at Trade Exhibitions

Trade exhibitions are important marketing and networking platforms for numerous industries. With Expo 2020 just around the corner, Dubai and the rest of the UAE has emerged as a global destination of business exhibitions, events and trade shows. All seven emirates have fantastic exhibition venues that feature state-of-the-art facilities and dedicated resources.

For the oil and gas industry, trade exhibitions represent opportunities to gain media exposure, grow brand awareness, and do business. Many industry professionals attend trade exhibitions to showcase their latest products and services.

With so many businesses all vying for attention, an innovative approach is required to stand out at such events.

Unlike some other industries, it is not easy to bring real-life oil and gas products and services to such venues. An international vendor will have difficulty displaying a large-sized heavy machine like pressure control equipment due to costs associated with shipping, storing and import regulations.

To circumvent this challenge, many businesses turn to computer-aided design (CAD) model displays to showcase their products and services. CAD models help exhibition attendees and prospective customers with product visualization. But there’s nothing quite like engaging with a scaled physical model.

Advancements in 3D printing technology enable businesses to deliver elevated effects at the next oil and gas trade exhibition. Businesses can leverage rapid prototyping to create perfectly 3D printed scale models of their latest products and services.

Benefits of 3D Printed Scale Models

For businesses looking for something beyond large photos or on-screen 3D rendered visualizations, realistic scale models is the way to go. As the saying goes, “seeing is believing.”

3D printed scale models give attendees a first-hand glimpse at how a product works.

Engaging product demonstrations enable businesses to educate attendees. After the product demonstration, a qualified trade exhibition team member can field questions, provide solutions and encourage attendees to become qualified leads.

Moreover, scale model product demonstrations have the ability to showcase product features and functionality. Such precise demonstrations allow businesses to showcase the uniqueness of their product’s features in greater detail.

There are many uses to 3D scale models in oil and gas trade exhibitions. 3D scale models can be printed for health and safety training, layout displays of oil and gas facilities, or as mentioned, highlight new functionalities and features in the latest product or service launch.

The Proto21 Advantage

At Proto21, our 3D printing technologies allow us to create highly detailed and precise scaled presentation models. We provide a full suite of solutions for our clients that include:

  • 3D design engineering
  • On-demand additive manufacturing
  • Rapid prototyping services

Our 360-degree approach to 3D printed model displays ensures you have the best solution for your trade exhibition needs. This can include anything from customized painting and branding to delivery and installation.

To ensure you have realistic scale models that draw attendees to your booth and engage in dialogue, we accompany you through each step of the project. As a 3D printing service company, we have the skills, mastery and experience with 3D printing technology to help you create something that stands out in the minds of potential customers.

We also have years of experience in material properties. We have a library of different 3D printing materials featuring plastics, polyamide, sandstone and resin. Such variety allows us to manufacture, finish and paint any presentation scale model your business requires.

Unsure about the right type of materials you need to achieve precise life-like presentation models? We can provide materials recommendation that can match your application requirements for any product display or service demonstration.

If your goal at the next industry trade exhibition is to display a product that engages and delivers elevated effects that drive business leads, then rapid prototyping scale modeling is a cost-effective way to promote, educate, sell and facilitate industry relationships.

Don’t get relegated to the periphery at the next oil and gas trade exhibition. Let Proto21 bring your products, ideas and concepts to life with realistic 3D printed scale models.

Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing: What’s the Real Difference?

Additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing. These often interchangeable terms get tossed around a lot. Which begs the question, what is the difference between the two and where does the line diverge between them?

From a broad perspective, additive manufacturing and the 3D printing process both describe the practice of creating physical objects through the fabrication of materials.

But if you look beyond the manufacturing process, there are minor distinctions that must be acknowledged. This blog post will examine additive manufacturing and 3D printing, exploring how both are directly interchangeable yet uniquely different.

A closer look at additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is an industrial production made possible by the transition from analog to digital processes. This transformative approach to manufacturing operations has enabled greater digital flexibility and efficiency in many industries.

Unlike traditional manufacturing technologies such as milling, machining and others, which subtracts material to create an object, additive manufacturing adds material. It transforms digital bytes through computer-aided design (CAD) software or 3D object scanners to precisely create a physical, three-dimensional object.

The information provided by computer software allows additive manufacturing to layer one super fine material after another. Each successive layer fuses together to fabricate a 3D object.

Various substances can be used as an additive material. Materials used for 3D printing range from metals and polymers to ceramics and glass. Biochemicals is an explorative field for additive manufacturing. In the near future, bio-inks will be used to create artificial organs, among other healthcare applications.

AM’s design flexibility is transforming numerous industries. Similar to the materials it can utilize, applications for additive manufacturing are vast. Aerospace, automotive and healthcare are just three examples of industries benefiting from additive manufacturing processes.

With additive manufacturing, parts, components and products can be produced lighter, stronger, and more efficient.

3D printing explained

Since MIT introduced 3D printing in the 1980s, it has changed dramatically. When it was first introduced in the 1980s, 3D printing was initially called “rapid prototyping.” That’s because originally, the purpose of 3D printing was to create faster and cheaper prototypes. 3D printing services have since evolved from its original prototyping application.

3D printing technology uses a 3D printer to create physical three-dimensional objects from a digital model. It uses additive manufacturing to deposit materials on successive layers-upon-layers to produce the desired end result.

Generally, the term “3D printing” is associated with filament-based plastic printers. Indeed, many consumer 3D printers are filament-based. There are, of course, numerous kinds of printers, including laser metal 3D printers, glass and clay 3D printers, as well as binder jet printers.

Materials that can be used with a 3D printer are as varied as with additive manufacturing. Filament, resin and powder are common materials used by 3D printers.

What about rapid prototyping?

From the definition above, rapid prototyping might appear to be another designation of 3D printing. And while that has a degree of truth, it’s a bit more complex than that. Rapid prototyping is an application and a group of techniques of 3D printing.

Compared to typical prototyping processes, it is a more cost-effective method. Unlike conventional prototyping which can take weeks or even months to create prototypes, rapid prototyping shortens the design and development cycle. This means the process can be done in a matter of days, depending on the prototype requirements.

Adding it all up

Based on the explanations and examples provided, it would appear that additive manufacturing and 3D printing are two sides of the same printed coin. So how is 3D printing different from additive manufacturing?

3D printing differs from additive manufacturing in that it is a subset of the latter. Similarly, rapid prototyping can also be defined as a subset of additive manufacturing as it uses an additive process for prototyping.

Further, additive manufacturing is associated with the industrial applications of 3D printing technology. It is the advanced method of 3D printing whereas 3D printing is more commonly associated with simpler processes or consumer-oriented production.

While the term 3D printing finds more widespread use, a label casually used by the general public and the media, additive manufacturing is heavily favored by industry professionals.

Ultimately, as both exist in largely overlapping domains, context will determine the appropriate terminology to use.

At Proto21, we have the knowledge and experience to leverage the right additive manufacturing process to your advantage. Have more questions about additive manufacturing and 3D printing services? Contact us today.

Top 3D Printing File Formats: Which One Is Best for Your Project?

3D printing is increasingly becoming popular for business around the world as the technology becomes more efficient and accessible. It helps build higher-quality products by allowing designers to produce product archetypes easily and bridging the gap between prototyping and full-scale production. What’s more, it dramatically reduces material wastage and helps firms make personalized, complex-shaped objects for a lower cost.

Currently, there are over 30 file formats for 3D printing, which can make it very confusing to decide which one is right for you and your work.

To help you out, let the Proto21 3D printing experts in Dubai guide you. Read on to learn how 3D printing file formats work and which top 3D printing file format is best for your project.

How do 3D printing file formats work?

First and foremost, it is crucial to understand how 3D printing file formats work. At its core, a 3D printing file format is a way to cache data about your 3D model so that a 3D printer can read it and create your object. The file will include the necessary data to form your object — specifically, the shape and the geometry. Newer file formats are advanced enough as well to contain data related to color, texture, and materials.

Another consideration to make concerning which type of file format you are going to use is how big you want your 3D model to be, as the possible size is fully dependent on the technology/printer that is used. For example, the printing envelope capacity of Stereolithography (STL) is 14.5cm × 14x5cm × 17.5 mm.

Knowing which 3D printing file format you are going to use is vital since not all file formats can be read by 3D printing software. Additionally, not every 3D File can be printed 3D. Therefore, it is best to work with a top company that specializes in 3D designing for 3D printing because they will be able to ensure that your file format is appropriate for the 3D printing process. If it is not suitable, they will be able to fix it.

What are your main options?

As mentioned earlier, there are over 30 file formats for 3D printing available, but here are the three most commonly used.

1. STL

The de facto standard for consumer-grade 3D printing, STL (“stereolithography”) is a no-frills arrangement that creates the configuration of your object by establishing the coordinates of the points of all the triangles into which a surface can be subdivided. In use since the beginning of 3D printing, this type of 3D rendering only comprises a single color and can be used with desktop 3D printers.

As it is the most widely used 3D printing file format, STL can be utilized for rapid prototyping services and 3D printing for both amateurs and professionals alike. If the item you are printing only has one color or material, then you will want to use STL as it is the simplest option and has smaller file sizes and faster processing than other formats.

Additionally, STL is supported by nearly all 3D printers, and most 3D printable models that you will encounter on the internet will be in the STL file format.

However, if you do want to use color or have a high resolution, the STL file format is not going to be able to handle it.

2. OBJ

Currently, the main competitor to STL is the OBJ (Wavefront OBJect) file format which is able to store color and texture profiles. It is also praised for its ability to produce precise models and is, consequently, likely to become a standard 3D printing format soon. Therefore, if you want to employ multiple colors or materials in your 3D printing, then you are going to want to use either OBJ or VRML (listed below) for your project.

Similar to the STL format, the OBJ file format is presented in a simple and open form and produces files that are a lot smaller compared to other file formats for 3D Graphics. So, if you are creating 3D graphics without animations, OBJ is also your best option.

One downside: While the OBJ format does have reasonable adoption throughout the 3D printing community, it is nowhere near being universal.

3. FBX

Used widely in both the film and gaming industries, FBX is a popular choice for animation as it supports geometry and appearance-related attributes (such as color and textures). Furthermore, FBX is known for its exceptional support for skeletal and modified animations.

If you are considering using FBX (to print a video game figurine, for example), then it is good to know that both binary and ASCII files are supported.

4. STP

The choice for projects in engineering-related fields (such as automotive & aeronautic engineering and building construction), STP files render 3D objects in CAD software and include detailed information. STP can handle all the characteristics of the IGES format and is capable of encoding topology, algorithmic thresholds, and material properties such as textures and materials. In fact, STP files can hold data from the complete life-cycle of a product’s design.

Have you ever used a 3D printer? If so, what 3D printing file format did you use? What did you think of the experience? If not, are you interested in trying out 3D printing? Let us know your thoughts regarding this topic in the comments below, and get in touch with our expert team at Proto21 for any inquiries.

Why Hollywood Is Swooning Over 3D Printing

Movies transport viewers into various realms which they can only dream of — from the afro-futuristic world of “Black Panther” to the outer reaches of space in “Star Wars.”

This virtual transportation into fantastic realms wouldn’t be possible without employing special effects, both practical and computer-generated imagery (CGI).

How does 3D printing figure in all of these? Through the creation of physical prototypes and much more.

CGI vs. Practical Effects

Before the advent of powerful computers used in rendering images, the use of practical effects was the standard.

By the 1990s, CGI took over.

Today, filmmakers and their crew have the best of both worlds, drawing on the strengths of both practical effects and CGI. And why wouldn’t they?

CGI, when overused or used ineffectively, can ruin a movie. Use too much and the suspension of disbelief among the audience is cut short. Instead of taking your viewers for a ride, you end up leaving behind the people watching the movie because of excessive visual noise.

The key here is balance.

CGI works best with landscape shots that require more resources (one example would be the battle scenes in “Game of Thrones” or “Star Wars”). Many filmmakers use practical effects for building physical structures and CGI for expansive landscapes.

Practical effects are used best in scenes wherein the characters are the main focus. In fact, many directors have noted that they can draw better performances from their stars through practical effects than with CGI.

How Hollywood Uses 3D Printing Technology

Hollywood has mastered the effective combination of both practical effects and CGI in crafting movie magic. Here’s how they do it.

  • Research and Development

    Creating fantastic creatures like the Demogorgon in “Stranger Things” requires extensive research and development before getting screen time.

  • The use of 3D software and printing enables the creative team to rapidly make physical prototypes and tweak these after receiving inputs. 3D printing, in particular, has proven to be beneficial as these allow the design team to create different iterations quicker and at a fraction of the time and cost used for more traditional methods.

  • Prop making

    3D printing has allowed prop makers to overcome old and new challenges.

    For example, the team behind the film “Zero Dark Thirty” needed to borrow night vision goggles from the US Department of Defense. Their request, however, was declined. Through 3D printing, the team was able to recreate the night vision goggles.

    In Marvel’s “Iron Man,” the special effects studio tasked to create Robert Downey Jr.’s armor turned to 3D printing. The team started with miniature models to iron out kinks and then crafted life-sized armor plates for the lead star. More importantly, the team was able to forgo the costly and tedious process of mold making.

    “Star Wars” has been known for its extensive list of characters often donning unique costumes. In bringing the franchise to a new generation of fans, the team behind “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” used 3D printing in making the costumes for the Stormtroopers and parts of C3PO. Apart from fast-tracking the process of manufacturing costumes, additive printing substantially reduced errors.

  • Animation

    While CGI has slowly become the new norm in making cartoon movies, LAIKA studio has spearheaded the use of 3D printing in their stop-motion animation films like “Coraline” and “Kubo and The Two Strings.” The results? Nothing short of astounding.

    Traditionally, stop-motion filmmaking uses model puppets or clay figures which are photographed frame by frame to show minute movements.

    LAIKA’s production team overcame a significant challenge by using 3D printing to craft over 6,000 faces that were able to mimic over 200,000 facial expressions.

    Building upon their experience and success with “Coraline,” LAIKA showcased their first character made entirely through 3D printing: the Moonbeast in “Kubo and The Two Strings.” This character is comprised of about 1,000 pieces, including the armature and exterior pieces.

How 3D Printing Is Making Manufacturing More Future-Ready

When it comes to discussing 3D printing for manufacturing, there are many different opinions pertaining to where the industry is heading, what the potential outcomes will be, and how it can be implemented.

One thing that everyone can agree on? It is going to majorly transform manufacturing as we know it. That’s because 3D printers facilitate a complexity in scale and product differentiation that has not otherwise been possible.

From rapid prototyping to a reduction in production costs, the elimination of material wastes, an increase in sustainability, and the widespread availability of manufacturing unique items, read on to discover how 3D printing is making manufacturing more future-ready.

1. 3D printing enables rapid prototyping.

In the future, as companies and individuals want to continue pushing their creative boundaries, 3D printing is going to play an integral role due to its contribution of rapid prototyping. This process is utilized in additive manufacturing to produce a model faster than any other means and is generally completed using 3D printing. Typically, rapid prototyping methods deliver better and more accurate finishes than 3D printing as the former uses more advanced precise part-accuracy technology.

Located in the industrial hub of Dubai, Proto21 is the leading Additive Manufacturer in the MENA region. After specializing in 3D printing for such a long time, we now have solutions for every stage of your product development cycle – no matter the industry. We are committed to spreading awareness of the benefits of 3D printing, while also accelerating its adoption by enterprises and individuals around the world. We seek to do this by offering rapid prototyping services with a free consultation and also hosting 3D printing training seminars.

2. 3D printing reduces production costs.

Due to the precise prototyping that transpires when using 3D printing, firms are quickly going to realize that they are not only operating more efficiently and increasing their supply chain capability, but also reducing their production costs. Having the capacity to promptly and reasonably generate prototypes empowers businesses to get creative, while the price allows them to be more lenient when it comes to managing trial and error.

As the cost of printing does not fluctuate, no matter how much is made, innovation in manufacturing will be cheaper and faster. Therefore, a company that migrates entirely to 3D printing will hit the breakeven point much faster than if they were to integrate different process technologies. The best 3D printing service provider will work diligently with you to ensure you are reducing your production costs while increasing your innovation levels.

3. 3D printing reduces material waste.

Sustainability is on everyone’s mind (and for good reason). Luckily, 3D printing is a much more sustainable manufacturing solution, which is another significant reason why it is making the industry more future-ready.

First, as 3D printing enables you to manufacture goods closer to the end user, it dramatically decreases the distances that items must be shipped which, in turn, creates far lower levels of carbon emissions.

Also, as 3D printing is additive manufacturing, instead of cutting away sections of a larger piece of material, you produce the good by adding material layer by layer. Therefore, there is no wasted material.

Decreasing the amount of resources needed has a positive environmental impact and also assists in reducing costs all around. However, it must be said that while it has substantial potential to help limit waste, it may also produce new recycling problems.

While there is still a long way to go in terms of the development of sustainable material options, at the moment, manufacturers utilizing 3D printers can select from several sustainable, recyclable, and environmentally friendly materials, as well as use many old products to create new ones using a 3D printer.

Progress in sustainability is also occurring in the other direction as additive manufacturing can be used to produce renewable energy sources (such as 3D printed solar cells).

4. 3D printing manufactures unique items.

The fact that 3D printing provides the ability to manufacture pretty much anything (anywhere and anytime) is undoubtedly appealing to many people around the world. By making manufacturing more accessible (both in terms of who can manufacture goods and what can be manufactured), 3D printing is welcomed by businesses, individuals, and frustrated inventors.

In a similar vein, generally, R&D departments often need prototypes, which then have to be created from molds or handcrafted. Obviously, this takes up a significant amount of time, and even more when creating one-off items or experimenting with unique designs.

However, this issue fades away when using 3D printed prototypes, giving everyone involved more time to spend focused on other things. More unusual items for less time and money? Now, that sounds like the future!

Does your company (or do you as an individual) use 3D printing or rapid prototyping? If so, what advantages or disadvantages have you seen in introducing this technology? If not, what is stopping you from seeing what it can do for you? Get in touch with our team to discover how our technologies can benefit your organization.