Are 3D Printing and Laser Really Interconnected?

In the last 15 years or so, we’ve seen major changes happening in laser technology. Many industries – tech and non-tech – use lasers to help ease manufacturing processes. In the medical field, for example, lasers are widely used to mark stainless steel utensils whereas in the auto industry, companies use lasers to keep track of their products. In plastic surgery, the technology is employed to make interventions less painful and more precise, and in retail, merchants have realized that laser-powered machines can boost productivity. The uses are vast, and increasingly more startups have been convinced of how powerful lasers can be.

Laser technology and 3D printing – is there any connection?

3D printing is better known as additive manufacturing. This process make use of laser machines (together with additional components) to craft 3D objects. The technology make use of advanced computing when creating virtual design objects. Designs are made with innovative computer programs such CAD – computer aided design; additional tech gear used are 3D scanners and 3D software modeling programs. The 3D digital copy of an object is created with the scanner. There are various models available in the marketplace, some more advanced and efficient than others. The three dimensional models need volumetric scanning and laser technology to perform and convert a concept into a live product. Top-tier companies like Microsoft and the giant Google, are currently incorporating their own type of hardware when 3D scanning, and one of the most common example is Microsoft’s acclaimed Kinect technology that uses lasers and 3D output to function.

Lasers need 3D printing technology

Laser technology needs 3D printing to work. A special process called selective laser sintering (SLS) creates 3D objects with the assistance of a process called powder bed fusion. The materials involved are made of nylon. A recoating tool is used to transfer the nylon into special bins with fresh powder; all this occurs in a processing chamber. Then a 3D laser is employed to scan the layers of the powder, thus sintering the particles and making 3D designs become 3D objects. Unlike conventional manufacturing processes such as fused deposition modeling (known as FDM) and stereolitography (SLA), selective laser sintering does not require support structures since the powder is everything the process requires to support the material. The end result is a lot better because more complicated objects are easier to construct. 3D printing applications with SLS result in excellent prototyping designs, consumer products, architectural models, hardware, consumer products, sculptures, promotional items and more.

Selective laser melting

SLM – selective laser melting – is another innovative method of additive manufacturing that needs laser to print 3D objects. The techniques uses lasers to melt the metallic powder in specific areas. SLM employs lasers to soften the layers of metallic powder materials. The particles are carefully heated (only in specific areas) and the entire method is dictated by 3D CAD machines. One of the most common applications of SLM occurs in aerospace industries, as well as medicine. Special prosthetics are manufactured with 3D printing because the technology allows easy customization of the pieces (following the patient’s anatomy). Metallic objects are easy to manufacture with the DMSL technique (also known as direct metal laser sintering). With DMLS, materials are only partially melted. Also, the method can be used on other materials too, not just stainless steel. Titanium, nickel, aluminum and cobalt are excellent too.

3D printing and laser technology on paper

Last but not least, we have the selection deposition lamination technology that use 3D printing to function. Commonly referred to as SLD, the technology is very similar to the laminated object manufacturing process (LOM). It makes use of special plastic or metal laminates of paper layers; these are glued together with a heated rolled. Shapes and cut with a laser cutter, the process is performed step by step, layer by layer.

Many of today’s tech and non tech industries use laser and 3D printing technology to manufactured objects or speed up the production line of their merchandise. Commercial laser marking makes use of laser to etch and mark metallic and nonmetallic items, ranging from medical utensils, tags, auto parts, and more. It is an evolving technology that soon enough more business will start using to stay ahead of the competition.

By Michael Clark and Fimark.co.uk!

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