The basics of 3D printing

Megan So, Staff Writer

Also known as “additive manufacturing,” 3D printing is becoming an increasingly known form of production. 3D printers have evolved to the point of creating useful dilatory objects, cars, houses, and even a prosthetic beak for an eagle. Although it has progressed recently, 3D printing remains a rather costly and time-consuming process. Thus, it is not yet widely used.

However, the future may greatly benefit from 3D printing, as it can reduce waste, be used for artistic means, and serve as a tool in medicine and science.

As it is, 3D printing is being used to create prosthetic limbs for children and young adults. Instead of making expensive prosthetic limbs that will be outgrown within a matter of months, doctors can give patients 3D-printed prosthetics that are made from more affordable, yet durable materials.

3D printing is not such a complex process that common people can’t understand it when it’s explained. Simply put, using a program called Autodesk Inventor, a 3D image in the program is printed, just as an essay would be printed from Microsoft Word. Then the material ,which is most commonly polymer, is dispensed onto the heated printer bed layer-by-layer from the extruder. The extruder moves by the axis motors, which the computer controls. The Z-Axis motor allows the extruder to move in a fashion that creates the third dimension. The last step is to wait until the object has completely cooled.

Liberty has its own 3D printers in room 6105. Engineering and Material Science teacher Tod Oney hopes to incorporate 3D printing into his classes’ curriculum more in the future, and Honors Physics teacher Mark Buchli may use the machines to print fins for launching bottle rockets.