A few years ago, when you thought of a printer, most likely an image of an old fashioned inkjet desk printer would come to mind. These iconic devices have been slowly but surely overtaken by more advanced technologies, and today the consumers see All-in-One printers as the default type. These devices have managed to encompass other office and desk devices such as scanners, fax machines, copy machines and sometimes even phones. Also, they can be shared and used by others, eliminating the need for more devices.

It would seem that the printer has reached the end of its evolution and that nothing could make it better. If you think this, then you are wrong. All printers up to now have been constrained to the 2D world or printing on paper, and just like Intel has done with the new transistors in the Ivy Bridge platform, the printer has moved into a new world: the world with three dimensions. And although it is not a new technology, only now has it stepped in the spotlight of regular consumers.

How do 3D printers work?

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The process of moving to the mainstream is similar to what happened with the computer, which has moved from rooms-sized devices that used to cost as much as a house to tiny devices that are cheap and widely available. These devices used to occupy a lot of space and the cost of one used to be astronomical, nevermind the cost of the 3D printer consumables. Nowadays, 3D printers are to some extent available for everyone.

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Although their prices are still very high in comparison to regular 2D printers, many can now afford to buy one, especially since prices range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. Also, the materials needed for 3D printing can be found much more easily, and they don’t cost quite as much as what they used to.

There are a few 3D printing technologies, and there are a few different technologies to consider. Most of them use plastic as their primary source of “fuel” in liquid, pellet of wire form. Also, there are other printers that use resins to create 3D models. Here are the main types of 3D printer technology:

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) – FDM is one of the most used technologies in 3D printing. The printer uses plastic fibres or pellets in order to create the 3D form and it works similar to a inkjet printer, where the nozzle makes successive passes over the form in order to create it layer by layer. The most used materials are ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and PLA (polylactic acid), which are thermoplastic compounds that harden when in contact with air (think of spider silk).

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) – This technology uses a bed of powdered material (metal, polyester etc) to create the 3D prints. Lasers “burn” each layer of the mold and the excess powder works as the support structure for the forming piece.

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Stereolithography (SLA) – One of the most innovative solutions in 3D printing that uses a resin and a UV laser to create the part layer by layer. The technology has been successfully used by manufacturers to create high resolution 3D printers. A good example of this technology is the Form 1 3D printer.

Where to find 3D printer consumables?

Ink cartridges and laser toners can be found pretty much everywhere, but consumables for 3D printers are not found at any computer store, although some manufacturers have boldly gone to the extent of creating 3D printers that use food (yes, food), paper or metal, the vast majority of 3D printers use plastic or resin to create the designs.

[color-box color="white"]Also Read - Top 6 Cheap & Affordable 3D Printers[/color-box]

This begs the question: where to buy 3D printer consumables? Well, you might be surprised to know that there are quite a few companies that sell 3D printer consumables, and today we’ll be taking a look at them.

Also, if you are interested in other services in different areas of the world, this list will be most helpful to you.

3D printers have become a reality and although it will take a while before they will be easily accessible to everyone, these devices are the future of printing. One big obstacle is their high price, but like we’ve seen time and time again, the future models will most likely have much more accessible prices.

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I often wonder, where is technology heading? What do all of these advances mean for us and for our future? I sometimes miss the days when I didn’t know how to use a floppy disk, or how a computer CPU works, but now, until I find an answer to my questions, I’ll keep tracking these advances and show everything I find to those who share my interests.