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What is a 3D Printer and how do they work?

Over the years, printers have increased in size and are now capable of printing a lot faster than they used to back in the 90’s. It just so happens that now printers can print three-dimensional objects.

3D printing is referred to as “Additive Manufacturing”. These particular printers can print layers of plastic and some, even metal. Each layer of 3D plastic printing is about 0.1mm thin.

What will these printers print?

3D printers are now capable of printing virtually anything, from hand held figurines, tables and architectural prototypes. These printers all differ in terms of what you can print, since they all come in different sizes. To print something as large as a table, you would obviously need a larger printer than the cheaper variety.

Printable objects for these printers will usually need to be created using certain software. Software like CAD (Computer Aided Design) will need to be used to create a printable. 3D scanners and certain digital cameras can be used as well to produce printable files, however, most will only print specific file types, so before investing in one of these, it’s worth looking into specifics of what they will print, as they all vary in terms of compatible file types.

How much are 3D Printers?

The price of these printers range from around $500 to thousands. If you are looking to print off hand held figurines or small items, these printers can be purchased from places like Office Works. Office Works have a large variety available, which range from $499-$5499.

Surprisingly as well, if you’re after one of the cheaper options, Aldi is currently selling one for $499!

If you are an architect looking to print off prototypes, then you may want to invest in the more expensive and larger variety to ensure that it will print off what you need.

How do these work and how much is the plastic?

The plastic that goes into these printers for printing is purchased in spools of PLA filament and once placed in, is melted by the printer. The spools look similar to spools or reels of cotton, but much larger. The price of the plastic for the 3D printer at Aldi costs $34.99 for 1kg of PLA which is 1.75mm thick and is available in all different colours. The price for spools of plastic at Office Works range from $47 – $54 and also come in different colours.

When you purchase these spools, it’s worth noting that different brands of PLA filament spools will only work with certain brands of printers. Much like purchasing ink for your standard printer.

How does 3D metal printing work?

The thought of printing 3 dimensional objects is quite exciting for items like jewellery, kitchenware and even door handles.

In terms of printing metal, this is quite different to printing plastic 3D objects and a special metal 3D printer is required. Metal printers aren’t as readily available yet here in stores like Office Works, so are harder to get.

When printing metal, the printer needs to heat up to an extremely high temperature and metal powder is needed for placement across a platform inside the printer, in order to craft objects.

What does 3D Printing look like?

Below is a video from YouTube showing a time lapse of a 3D printer printing the Eiffel Tower which we thought you might like.