From how 3D printing works to the best 3D printers, where to find the latest FREE 3D models and even money making business ideas. Here is were you will find 17 thing you need to know about 3D printing in the UK today!
What is 3D printing?
A process to make a
3D object by forming material in an additive way.
This is achieved by taking a digital 3D design or 3D scan of an object and translating them into layers which the printer then builds up to create the final item
traditional manufacturing techniques such as CNC milling which remove
material to create an object, 3D printing works by adding materials
also known as Additive Manufacturing (AM).
This process is carried out by joining or solidifying a material to build up layers to form an object.
Firstly, a digital file such as an STL which contains the 3D model is processed into layers by slicing at a determined resolution or layer height. Other settings such as speed and infill percentage are also set at this stage to create a print profile.
This print profile is then exported to the printer as a code and interpreted as x,y and z axis movements.
There are seven other main categories of 3D printing type, the first two are the most affordable and popular types.
Also know as Fused
Filament Fabrication or Fused Deposition Modeling the later being
trademarked by Stratasys in the United States.
This type employs an
extruder which feeds a continuous filament through the print head
nozzle or hotend.
The print head extrudes the x and y layers before moving the z axis to preform the next layer. Depending on the design, orientation and filament used temporary support structures may be required.
Below you can see 1 – nozzle ejecting molten material, 2 – deposited material, 3 – controlled x, y and z axis.
Within this category
are two different technologies, Stereolithography (SLA) and Digital
Light Processing (DLP).
SLA and DLP printing
employ a controlled light source to cure (photoplymerization) a
liquid resin into shape.
SLA is laser based, using a single beam aimed at the resin to be solidified on the build plate. Similar to FFF, the laser beam is rapidly aimed to solidify the x and y lines before the build plate is re positioned for the next layer.
Similarly DLP implements the pixels of a digital projection screen to flash an image onto the build plate, solidifying the exposed resin for the entire layer. This gives DLP a faster print time, but due to the nature of using square pixels the final print can exhibit visible vertical lines on the finished surface called voxels.
In addition, other categories of 3D printing include Powder Bed, laminated, powder fed and wire.
3D printers generally fall into three sectors; consumer, prosumer and commercial/industrial grade.
Key considerations when looking to purchase a 3D printer should be:
Do you need a 3D printer?
3D printing is a great technology, but does have a steep learning curve and will require a significant investment of your time as well as your money. If you only require occasional use of a printer it might be worth considering using a 3D printing service.
Above all, entry level FFF printers are the most accessible with a wide choice of manufactures available in the UK and prices starting from under £200. Professional FFF printers range from about £700 up to £6000+ for commercial.
However in recent years SLA and DLP resin printers have become more affordable starting around £300.
See more about printer prices for the home and other costs below.
Kit vs ready assembled
You might be considering a kit sometimes called part assembled, but its worth checking the level of support provided by the manufacture, warranties and quality of the components. In addition these kits are sometimes supplied with exposed power supplies which pose a potential hazard if handled incorrectly.
Furthermore, if you purchase a ready assembled printer from a UK retailer you will have more consumer protection to fall back on if things go wrong.
Is measured by the x, y and z axis to give its build volume. The greater the build volume the bigger you can print, and the more you can print at one time.
Auto bed LEVELING
Ensuring a level print bed is important to maintain an equal distance between the print nozzle and the bed surface. Above all this is can be the source of many printing issues if not setup correctly.
Additionally, printers with auto bed leveling use a sensor to calibrate the distance and makes software adjustments to the z axis to compensate for any inaccuracies.
This can save a lot
of time and faffing about especially if you are new to 3D printing.
All prices found at the time of writing, with the ability to ship to the UK.
Where to buy
Certainty, for the greatest level of support purchasing from a reputable local shop would be recommended. Some manufactures sell directly such as Prusa. However other manufactures sell through preferred re-sellers, this information can usually be found on their website.
Amazon.co.uk can be
a great source for finding the latest models at very competitive
Be particularly cautious of buying kits from suppliers outside of the UK as these do not necessarily have to meet the same standards of assembled products sold in the UK.
Read reviews, check
out the seller and take your time.
3D printer prices for the home
As you can see above 3D printers vary greatly in price. For example, a assembled entry-level FFF 3D printer for the home can be had for as little as £118.66 Plus UK delivery.
According to https://pricespy.co.uk XYZprinting da Vinci Nano was retailing for £165.60 at the beginning of 2019. That is a fall of more than 25% over a six month period.
The same printer can be found on Amazon.co.uk for even less, although was temporarily out of stock at the time of writing.
Because the development of this technology is rapidly improving, prices of older models are dropping. This is also increasing the amount of 3D printers available on the second hand market in the UK.
During May 2019 on a local classifieds website I found an Original Prusa i3 MK2.5S for £225 including 4 rolls of filament!
With prices dropping
below £200.00, now is a great time to start thinking about
purchasing your first 3D printer for the home.
Beside the initial
outlay for a 3D printer there will be additional expenses along the
These include, running Costs, energy use, material cost, maintenance, tools, personal protective equipment and consumables such as paper towels and propranol alcohol.
Once a 3D model has been created or downloaded, firstly it will need to be prepared to export to your printer. This is achieved by importing your CAD model file e.g STL into the slicing software. Secondly, the file is then sliced into layers, and other settings such as speed, infill, supports and temperature are calculated.
Finally, the model is now ready to be exported as a G-code to the printer.
Additionally, there are also tools for rendering meshes and repairing files.
Additive manufacturing is increasingly finding its place in schools, businesses and the home. Potential hazards to health and safety can arise from the 3D printing process. We will look at some hazards relating to desktop FFF printers and measures that can be taken to help reduce the risks of injury and adverse health effects
High temperatures such as the hotend and heated bed
Allow sufficient time for the printer to cool before removing prints and maintenance. Signs and barriers, Enclosures, Hotend sock, Gloves
Removing support material
Wear safety eye protection
Handling support material and prints
Wear gloves, remove sharp parts by filing and deburring
Exposed terminals and wiring
Contain exposed conductive parts within a suitable enclosure. Check for wear and damage to cables before powering on
Heating and extruding filament
Breathing vapor and particle emissions
Use in a well ventilated area, extraction and filter systems, enclosures
Pinching or trapping hand/fingers
Not coming into contact when the printer is operating. Signs,barriers and enclosures
Exposed high temperature surfaces
Not leaving the printer unattended. Fire detection – Smoke alarm. Contained within a fireproof enclosure. Local fire suppression, such as a fire extinguisher
Similarly, considerations such as printing items to be used with food should be ‘food safe’, and reliability of safety critical parts need be taken into account. For commercial applications carrying out a risk assessment would be highly recommended.
should be considered for resin based printers.
For more information on measuring and controlling emissions from filament printers check out this in depth 70 page document prepared by the UK health and safety executive here.
Essential 3D printer tools, equipment and consumables
Take the stress out with these must have items to include in your 3d printing tool kit:
Additive manufacturing is reshaping opportunities for new and existing businesses. Many big businesses such as Boeing and car manufactures like BMW and Ford have already embraced this emerging technology not just for rapid prototyping but as a feasible manufacturing process.
There is no one answer to how 3D printing can be a business in it own right, but as a technology with potentially endless possibilities we will look at several ways you can get started:
Designing niche parts or products for other people or businesses
Selling your own designs and models
Selling 3D prints
Offering a local 3D printing service
Selling 3D printers and related supplies
Fixing and maintaining printers
Tuition and support services
Investing in 3D printing related stocks and shares
permissions the original creator or owner has given to their creative
works will help stay compliant with the licence terms.
It all might sound
like a lot of jargon, but public copyright licenses are tools used to
attribute original authors and allow fair use of their works.
A good place to start is the creative commons (CC) licence, have a look at the license types and their permissions in this licence spectrum:
Creative Commons Licence Spectrum
For more on the future relationship between 3D printing and intellectual property, check out the following:
The UK’s intellectual property office (IPO) have published an in depth 88 page research report on 3D printing and IP futures across six countries available here.
A decentralized method to authenticate the data usage such as blockchain technology could be a new way forward. Blockchain tech is being explored by the likes of GE and IBM to protect IP and verify the manufacturing process from the design file to materials and printer configuration.
3D Printing and the environment
Looking at the impact on the environment both directly and indirect, below are some good and not so good affects:
Reducing Waste Materials
manufacturing methods have reduced waste material in comparison to a
subtractive manufacturing method such as CNC machining.
Using 3D printers to
make replacement parts to carry out repairs, increasing an items
Improving efficiency and lowering energy use
by the development of lighter 3D printed parts for use in planes and
3D printing new
tooling and parts to increase performance and efficiency of existing
mentioned, reduced waste material also helps lower the energy used to
produce the raw material in the first place, this could also be said
for extending the usable life of existing items.
The ability to 3D
print complex parts as one piece reducing assembly requirements and
for the geographic area, minimizing transport of the final item.
Printing products at
home reducing the need to travel to shops or get deliveries, although
the raw materials would still require to be transported. This could
be further improved if the printing material was sourced and made as
local as possible, or even better from locally recycled plastics.
3D printings ability
to make different products in low quantity on demand locally would
help reduce the need for storage and the related energy required for
those storage facilities. The warehouse is now in the clouds!
When 3D printed products reach the end of life they could be recycled into a reusable print material or filament ready to re printed into something new.
For example old
shoes could be recycled with minimal need of additional material to
make a larger size, or just remake them.
Waste and by product
could also be utilised in this way.
Removing plastic waste from the environment especially the sea and coastal areas which the UK has plenty of, and then converting them into filaments.
Increasing the productivity of C02 Carbon capture is a new
Furthermore researchers at the UCLA have been exploring the idea of
incorporating captured carbon into 3D printed building materials.
Helping regenerate natural environments, for example artificial ceramic reefs to foster new coral growth.
Not so good
The high temperatures and resins used in 3D printing release volatile organic compounds, some of these VOCs are dangerous to human health and cause harm to the environment.
3D printing consumes
a considerable amount of electricity, arguably more than traditional
methods like milling to make the same part.
such as selective
laser sintering (SLS) leave
a substantial amount of raw material behind which
have to be refreshed at
rates between 35% and 50%.
What can you do?
Reduce material use by using lower infill rates
Print multiple items at once
Change orientation to reduce support material
Use eco-friendly materials such as PLA, a corn based renewable type of thermoplastic. There is even a hemp filament that can be sourced here. It can also print at lower temperature than PLA.
Use an enclosure and appropriate filters
Insulate heated print beds
Recycle failed prints and support material.
Try to use renewable sources of energy
Obtain materials and supplies from local sources
Use your printer to make things to reduce your waste, energy usage and improve our environment.
A brief History of 3D printing
3D printing technology has the potential to connect us with our heritage and usher in a new era returning to local distributed manufacturing based on digital fabrication.
3D printing news
Newcastle NHS Foundation Trust Hospital gets a 3D printing lab
The Royal Victoria Infirmary is trialling a new 3D printed lab provided by Belfast based company axial3D to reduce surgery time for orthopaedic and spinal operations.
This is achieved by using the 3D model of the patients anatomy in pre-operative planning for complex procedures .
So far 20 patients have taken part, with the trial to include a total of 48 patients before the trust considers expanding this technology into other hospitals.
Be sure to check this space for regular updates and subscribe for the latest 3D printing developments.
If you feel something has been missed out or have any suggestions for future articles please leave a comment below.
Prusament filament as you might have guessed is manufactured in house by Josef Prusa. Prusa Research is the only 3D printer manufacturer with its own filament production lines.
Prusament filaments are available in PLA, PETG and ASA in a range of colours. See more about Prusament filaments in the video below.
The filament comes in a resealable vacuum sealed bag supplied in a sealed cardboard box. A specification label including a QR code for details and a date stamp is located on the side, this filament was produced on 16.9.2019 less than 1 month old when delivered.
The filament is perfectly wound on a ‘honeycomb’ patterned spool that results in 45% less plastic being used. There are filament catches around the perimeter and another QR code stamped on the spool.
A great thing about Prusament filament is the amount of detail accessible via the QR code or ID, a sample spool can be seen here. Amongst other things the exact weight of the filament and spool are available including a calculator for working out the remaining length of filament left on the spool.
The graph displays the tolerance range confirming it is within ±0.02mm along its entire length. This is reassuring and will provide quality printing throughout the spool.
The first print of a calibration cube at 0.2mm layer height came out great, good layer adhesion and the colour is identical to the printed parts found on a Prusa printer.
As expected the Benchy above turned out very nice, with only some slight stringing which is a characteristic of PETG in general.
More on PETG:
For more info on PETG take a look at this previous review of fiberlogy PETG filament.
Where to buy:
Prusament filament is available from Prusa Research’s official Josef Prusa shop shop.prusa3d.com.
A 1Kg spool of Prusament PETG in Prusa Orange cost £26.69 inc tax. Delivery to the UK which took 7 days and was £5.71 bringing the total to £32.40 delivered.
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