What is 3D printing?
3D printing might be a new term for many people. The idea of printing something in three dimensions might be strange and futuristic idea. However, the technology has been around for decades and various companies use 3D printing for all sorts of applications. The concept is quite simple; print something layer by layer, until the entire object is built. Nike, for example, use 3D printers to create mock-up prints of their new shoe designs in various colors.
Today, 3D printers are a lot faster, more universal, and very importantly, more affordable. That means that it is a lot more accessible for public use. Here at Syracuse University, 3D printing is an important part of the family of digital fabrication. Located at Slocum Hall, the School of Architecture houses two 3D printers; Invasion and Zcorp.
SU Locations for 3D printing: Slocum Hall
Invasion is arguably the ‘better’ 3D printer. It creates models out of plastic, as opposed to powder. Plastic often means strong and more durable. The material is translucent and allows for a coating of paint, but is not necessary. When the print comes out, it is entirely covered in wax. Within the wax mold is the 3D printed plastic model. The wax acts purely as a support system while the model is being printed. The plastic, which is the 3D printed model, is set into place using ultra violet light. Once the model is completed, the wax support is melted off and finally dusted away. The ‘bed’, which is the volume in which the model can be made in, is 11.75” by 7.3” by 8.2”.
Zcorp is known as the more brittle version of 3D printing, but it is more appropriate to use in some cases. The models are made with the same concept as Invasion, and other 3D printers, but instead uses a powder-like white composite material, and holds it together using a special adhesive. One thing which arguably makes Zcorp more advanced than Invasion is the fact that it uses the same material it builds with as support. This means that once the support is differentiated, it can be recycled and reused for the next model. Additionally, the bed of the printer is 10” by 8” by 8”, allowing for bigger models to be made.
The cost is calculated very fairly by the amount of material used to make the model. This takes into account the amount of material used, and the amount of time and energy used by the machine. These variables can be calculated accurately as both are directly related to the weight and size of the model. Invasion exposes it’s drawback at this stage as it charges for both the building material, plastic, and the support material, wax. Furthermore, the wax, as mentioned before, is melted and thrown away post production. The Zcorp charges only for the powder used, which makes models in this printer cheaper.
SU Locations for 3D printing: SU Warehouse
Falso Industries offers a higher end kind of 3D printing. As mentioned in their company profile, Falso Industries works with a lot of high end clientele in order to create products at a very high quality. Unfortunately, this means that their products, especially 3D printing, becomes more expensive. However, as a design major student who might be interested in creating a prototype for a project, this is the perfect resources. Falso Industries uses a 3D printer which prints using Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS). While this material is more expensive, it is one of the leading 3D printing materials. It is an engineered polymer used for it’s strength as a final product and it’s durability. For example, it is what Lego pieces are made of, which is the ultimate balance between weight and strength. In recent news, a prosthetic arm support was 3D printed for a young girl.
The cost of the 3D print will vary on the level of detail with which it is printed. This is measured by accuracy, which ranges from measurements from 0.005” slice height, to 0.013” slice height. While these measurements are not too far apart from each other, it will make a significant difference in the final product. As an idea for price comparison, something which cost approximately $35 to print at the Slocum Hall power 3D printer, it would cost $300 using ABS. For more details on specific models, contact them through their website at falsoindustries.com in order to ask for a quote. In my experience, they will reply in a few hours.
The 3D printer is different from the kind used at Slocum Hall, and at Falso Industries. This essentially gives students a 4th option to 3D print. While the 3D printers at Slocum can be more for experimental, quick models, and the 3D printer at Falso Industries is more for permanent prototypes, the Warehouse offers a medium between the two. The 3D printer at the Warehouse has a print dimension of 10” by 10” by 10”. It is an FDM printer, which stands for Fused Deposition Modeling. It is a more durable material, however, the detailing is likely to not be as clear as what Slocum Hall or Falso Industries might offer. Think of it as more durable, and a little bit more rough.
It is difficult to put a price per square foot, or price per minute kind of pricing on 3D printers. There are so many variables that it makes it difficult to judge without actually having the final product, and estimating a price based on the product. Any small kind of variable can make a difference in the cost. Just like Slocum Hall and Falso Industries services, it is best to call the staff and send the file which you are interested in 3D printing. This will give you the best price range and allow you to make an accurate decision based on your needs.
Examples of 3D Printing