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Also commonly known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is any of various processes to make a three-dimensional object. Although the practice was mostly only a pipe dream up until around a decade ago, in recent times giant numbers of companies have been founded for making 3D printers, offering 3D printing services, and everything 3D printing related in between.
3D printing can be performed in a variety of different ways, all having strengths and weaknesses.
The most common form of 3D printing is material extrusion. The machine will heat up, and feed malleable plastic, layer by layer, into the programmed shape. These shapes can be either hollow or filled, depending on the programming settings of the printer at the time.
Companies that make material extrusion printers include:
- Makerbot - Makerbot makes the replicator, a very common choice among private customers, as well as faggy startups.
- Many, many varieties of cheap printers found everywhere.
Another common method of 3D printing is binder jetting. Binder jetting is where instead of material being outputted to create the result, a sort of "glue" will be put down to join particles, ultimately creating the result. Binder jetting (with metal) is employed as a more industrial friendly option for 3D printing, as the results created from these machines will usually be much more strong than other means. No, you probably don't need one of these types, they're expensive as fuck, and one produced by ExOne looks to be as big as a small house. Material extrusion will be fine for you 99.9% of the time.
Companies that make binder jetting printers include:
- VoxelJet - Ultra lightweight, weighing in at only half a tonne!
- ExOne - ExOne produces printers made for creating objects out of metal. While i never bothered to get a quote, they look expensive as fuck.
A much less common form of 3D printing is sheet lamination. Materials that are used in this process can be carbon fiber, fiberglass, and more. Works faster than other means, and if you use good materials, the results are supposedly strong as fuck.
Companies that make sheet lamination printers include:
- Mcor - Makes a full-color printer, where the material used is paper.
- Impossible Objects - Impossible objects makes printers that use carbon fiber to make products that are strong as fuck. Thier prints are supposedly used in a variety of cool shit.
A bunch of companies also use their own methods to make prints.
- Solidscape - Drop On Demand. The system used in this case takes heated-up wax as a material, and drops it into place.
- XJet - NanoParticle Jetting. XJet got a bit of press attention when they first came through with this system. Liquid metal is used in this case to ultimately create metal prints.
- HP - Multijet Fusion. HP makes a printer that uses multiple plastics at the same time, with multiple jets.
I might've missed a few methods, but oh well.
Can't be assed to buy a printer for yourself? Like paying out the ass for the smallest of things? Why make it yourself when 3D printing services continue to pop up!
- Shapeways - SUbmit, review, and print your 3D models. Also find other people's models to print in thier store, and select which material you would like.
- UPS - Yeah. Your local UPS office may have a 3D printer on deck, ready to take customers.
- You3DIt - For the less /3/ inclined, You3DIt has services for both designing, as well as fabricating prints.
I'm not able to pull this off, but i'll talk to /diy/ about what sorts of printers they would recommend.