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.

3D Printing Basics: How It Works

No matter what industry you are operating in, there is a good chance that you have heard of 3D printing. This technology, which initially began as a specific niche service, is now projected to ‘remodel’ the world of production.

The economic, environmental, and creative benefits of 3D printing are continuing to attract a wide array of business owners from around the globe who are eager to have their products printed in this manner.

If you want to know about 3D printing basics, keep reading to learn how it works.

1. Understand the different kinds of manufacturing.

First things first, if you want to know the basics of 3D printing, then you need to understand how this type of manufacturing is different to the types you are more used to working with and that have been dominant in the past.

3D printing is essentially additive manufacturing, which refers to the process of creating three-dimensional objects by adding layers of material, rather than subtractive manufacturing, which forms raw materials into the desired shape through cutting.

In order to print something, you need to have an object blueprint (a digital file) that gets plugged into the printer – usually through a USB device. Also, the appropriate materials are required in the form of liquid or powder so that they can be melted down to create the additive layers which are accumulated to form the three-dimensional object.

Depending on the size and intricacy of the product, it can take anywhere from a few hours to multiple days to print an object.

2. Take your design to professional 3D printing and design services.

Even if you only have an idea doodled down on a napkin, you can bring that into a company that specializes in professional 3D printing and design services to ensure that your concept comes to life. Alternatively, if you have the design or the model ready, you can seek to have your file transformed into a physical replica by letting a professional service 3D print it.

Rapid prototyping services utilize industrial grade materials to manufacture your prototypes straight from the CAD files. If you do opt to work with a professional service to 3D print, look for one that allows you to upload your CAD file directly to their website (for convenience), and that also provides you with options for post-processing techniques and finish.

3. Pick the appropriate 3D file format.

The 3D printing file format is essential in this process as it holds the data needed for your 3D model to be printed through a 3D printer. The file format will hold data including the shape and the geometry of your object, as well as potentially the color, texture, and materials.

However, not all 3D printing file formats work the same, and not all of them can be read by 3D printing software; therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you choose the appropriate 3D file format.

While there are over 30 file formats for 3D printing available, generally, the main ones that are used are STL, OBJ, FBX, and STP. STL is supported by nearly all 3D printers and can be used for rapid prototyping services.

Alternatively, if you want to use multiple colors or materials in your 3D printing, then OBJ is going to be the right file format for your project. FBX is the preferred format for animation due to its support of geometry and appearance-related attributes, while STP is ideal for engineering-related projects.

4. Utilize it to benefit your business.

At the end of the day, if you are choosing to bring some form of 3D printing into your business, then you want to know that you are utilizing it beneficially.

There are plenty of standard business scenarios that 3D printing can help solve. For example, the high costs associated with producing minimum viable products, difficulties in consistently producing high-quality items, different challenges related to the production line, and significant overhead costs.

If you, like many businesses, are struggling with any of these issues, then you may want to consider working with 3D printing experts in Dubai (or wherever you are located).

Choosing to enter this type of partnership will provide you with the tools necessary for you to deal with these challenges head-on and efficiently. After all, there is a reason why so many industries around the world are realizing that 3D printing technology provides new opportunities for firms to reach their potential.

Has your business ever considered using 3D printing for any reason?

If so, what was your experience like and what would you do differently next time? If you haven’t tested out the possibilities with this technology, what is stopping you?

But if you are seriously contemplating harnessing the benefits of 3D printing for your business, consider partnering with us at Proto 21.

We’re always ready to answer any queries you may have, and our team of experts is available to give recommendations on how your business can benefit from this technology.

3D Printing Transparent Clear Resin in Dubai, UAE

The use of transparent models in 3D printing is increasingly becoming an in-demand option for various industries and a wide range of customised projects using 3D printing in Dubai and across the region. Some of the top sectors that make good use of transparent 3D printing services are bottle manufacturers, jewelers and engineers who use the material to demonstrate their concepts with more details and with internal views.

Transparent 3D models and textures are made by solidifying liquid resin with ultraviolet light. A skillful understanding of the right techniques and process to use is required to ensure the right level of transparency and finish are achieved.

Solid training and experience with the material have equipped Proto21 with the level of mastery needed for 3D printing clear resin. Our team can provide 90 percent clear, transparent 3D prints. The printing layer height of this material can go up to 25 microns (0.025mm), providing high-quality results like any injection molded manufactured model. Minimum details can be 0.5mm with a clearance of 0.3mm.

Important Notes on 3D Printing Transparent Resin

  • Color Changes Over Time: Due to the nature of the technology, resin 3D prints solidified with UV tend to change color over time depending on the light environment.
  • Tinge: The tinge of transparent resin models may vary slightly. The greater the thickness of the model, the more noticeable the bluish tinge becomes. The tinge color is usually blue when we bring out a model from the printer. When we apply our technical finish to bring out more clarity, it gets yellowish. But the model gets clearer within 2 to 3 days of storage in an indoor or enclosed environment.
  • Technical Finish: Post-processing of clear 3D printing material at Proto21 is a long, labor-intensive process. A model can take more than one day for just post-processing. The complete lead time for a standard model with a size of 10cm x 10cm can take up to two working days.
  • Visibility: The visibility of the layers strongly depends on the shape or the design of the model. For instance, on a curved surface, layers will be much more visible. A special coat of chemical is applied to your model in order to make it transparent. This coat also protects your model from dust and helps minimize the discoloration process.

The 4 Most Exciting 3D Printing Materials: 2019 Update

Every year, as the technology improves and expands, more 3D printing materials are introduced to the market. With so many options, it can be overwhelming to know which ones are worth utilizing and which ones are just a fad. Additionally, it can become even more challenging to know in which circumstances or for which products each material is best suited.

To help you make a well-informed decision, we have put together a list of the four most exciting 3D printing materials in 2019. Keep reading to learn more.

1. Plastics

For a long time, plastics have been the most commonly used material for 3D printing as they provide a wide variety of options with different specs that can be utilized for different purposes. That being said, PLA and ABS are two of the most popular plastics for many product development applications.

Polylactic acid (PLA)is derived from plant starches – which makes it one of the most affordable options – and is known for its ease of usage, ability to print excellent details, and its strong form. Additionally, PLA comes in an extensive rainbow of colors, which makes it ideal if you want 3D printing that has high visual appeal.

The advantages of acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene (ABS) include its ability to create functional prototypes, and its high mechanical strengths and high thermal resistance. Its durability and toughness are among the main reasons industries worldwide opt to use this material for their 3D printing needs.

2. Polyamide (Nylon)

Slightly more expensive than plastic, polyamide is an exciting material for professional 3D printing services due to its superior flexibility and strength.

Its strong bonding quality makes it ideal for parts that require mechanical strength. Because of its rough surface that can be developed in many ways (colored, polished, spray-painted, velvet glazed), polyamide tends to be the first choice for many fields including engineering and architecture, medicine, and in the arts (e.g., sculpture).

As this material works with FDM and SLS technologies, at Proto21, we believe it performs its best when applied to concept models, functional models, medical applications, tooling, and visual arts. Other advantages include the fact that it is chemical resistant, food safe, and has high thermal properties and low moisture absorption.

3. Sandstone (Full Color)

If you require a multicolored object, then you are going to be excited to hear about sandstone, which is the ultimate full-color 3D printing material.

Often used to create figurines, avatars, or to showcase models, sandstone 3D printing is achieved by adding one layer of color at a time. At Proto21, once the model has been printed, we finish it with cyanoacrylate (super glue) sealant to guarantee durability and to sustain the vivid colors.

For many people, having a 3D printed sandstone model on their desk is the most significant benefit of this material; however, there are other advantages as well such as the affordable pricing and fast turnaround time.

That being said, it is crucial to understand that this material is not suited for producing functional parts or daily handling; else, the colors will quickly fade.

4. Resin

One of the best choices for functional and concept models, resin is especially suited for the manufacture of large parts within a shorter period of time, while preserving a tremendous amount of detail.

As a photopolymer, the resin begins as a viscous liquid that is then turned into a solid by exposing it to UV light.

There are a number of different resins available, all of which are used for different applications. At Proto21, we offer six types of resin for 3D printing and rapid prototyping:

  • Standard Grey Resin: Standard grey resin (SLA) is a high-detail resin that constructs components with a silky surface finish. Due to its fragile nature, this type of resin is best used for non-functional parts.
    Dental Resin: Dental resins (SLA) produce highly-accurate, sterilizable, and biocompatible pieces that are used to create dental implants.
  • Castable Resin: Castable resin (SLA) is a high-detail resin utilized when producing patterns for investment casting as it burns out cleanly with minimal ash or residue.
    Tough Resin: The ultimate choice when prototyping strong functional parts that can endure stress, tough resin even comes in a brilliant transparent turquoise color.
  • Durable Resin: For products or parts that have high wear and tear, the best choice is durable resin as its high elongation and high impact strength with excellent resistance from deformation ensure that it can survive the toughest conditions. Parts printed on durable resin have smooth glossy finishes, too.
  • Flexible Resin: The pieces created with flexible resin can twist and contract, making this material ideal for wearable models, such as handles, catches, and packaging.
  • Has your business started utilizing the exciting technology of 3D printing? If so, what do you tend to get printed and which materials do you like to use?

    Alternatively, if you haven’t tried it yet (and, therefore, aren’t aware of the myriad benefits it can bring to your company), what is stopping you?

    Do you have any questions about 3D printing technology and materials as they apply to your business? We can help.

    Get in touch with Proto21 today.