After all is said and done with 3D scanning, it is time to now move on to 3D printing. “3D printing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital model.” Or, basically printing a 3D model of the object that was scanned.
The process to print a 3D model is not all that complex; as long as the printer is set up right, the rest takes care of itself. First, the object must be scanned into the computer. Next, the nozzle must be just a little bit above the surface in which the model is going to be created. Then you hit go, and the printer does the all the hard work.
The way the printer actually prints is through a technology called Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). The way this technology works is by “using a plastic filament which is unwound from a coil and supplies material to an extrusionnozzle.” The material is melted by the heated nozzle and can move on the X, Y, and Z axis, which is completely controlled by the computer program. The model is created by forming one layer at a time, so the material hardens immediately after exiting the nozzle.
Of course there are positives and negatives to 3D printing. Starting with the positives, 3D printing is one of the only ways to print a 3D model from a scanned image on a computer. Secondly, the 3D printers at Penn State are used to make parts for other 3D printers. So, it’s like the gift that keeps on giving. Surprisingly, cost is also a positive. They are reasonably cheap if you really want one or need one. They are roughly sold for around $1,000-$3,000, which is very good compared to the price of the scanners. A tradeoff of printing with a 3D printer is that the product could be less durable than if the item was produced on a normal machine.
Some negatives about 3D printing is that it is time consuming and it’s not 100% accurate. It can take a while to print something depending on how big it is. Also, it can mess up and get off track, which means you then have to start the whole process over again. Fortunately, students are constantly trying to correct any bugs that the system has in order to make it more consistent and faster.