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Explore a new dimension

Updated on: 07 June,2020 07:22 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Jaison Lewis |

If you have wondered about 3D printing, this is the perfect time and place to explore it

Explore a new dimension

Navin Jain and Kaushik Mudda from Ethereal Machines. They has been creating a lifesaving splitter that multiplies the capacity of a ventilator allowing two patients to use a single ventilator

3D printing is the process of creating a three-dimensional object using a machine that builds it one layer at a time. The fact is that 3D printing has been around for a while, but affordable machines that you could build at home are a fairly new phenomenon. One of the reasons you may have heard about 3D printing recently is because of its utility during the COVID-19 pandemic. Makers were creating printable masks, critical medical spares and a lot of innovative solutions for patients and frontline workers.

One such innovator, Kaushik Mudda from Ethereal Machines has been creating a lifesaving splitter that multiplies the capacity of a ventilator, allowing two patients to use a single ventilator.

Do you need one?
Well, that depends. There are lots of things you can do with a printer and it is a doorway for creators to make what's in their mind.

Suffian Suhail, lead Instructor and maker evangelist at MakersBox Innovations Pvt Ltd.
Suffian Suhail, lead Instructor and maker evangelist at MakersBox Innovations Pvt Ltd.

"You can tinker around with new ideas and take it from an idea to prototype stage within a few hours. It can either be a new educational toy for a child or a part of an engine in a car. Your ideas no longer die as ideas without access to a prototyping facility/maker space etc. You have the power to act on those ideas and convert it into a tangible output without relying on anyone," says Mudda.

If you are not sure about taking the leap, maker spaces could provide a viable alternative. You can book a 3D printer and get to know the device.

The different types
Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM): This is the simplest and most common method of printing. The printing material is pushed out of a hot extruder and the plastic is deposited in the desired shape on a heated plate. The models printed however will have visible lines separating every layer.

Ivan Miranda is a well known creator on YouTube. He recently made a plastic tank on a 3D printer that one can even ride in
Ivan Miranda is a well known creator on YouTube. He recently made a plastic tank on a 3D printer that one can even ride in

Stereolithography (SLA): This method uses ultraviolet laser and a container of photopolymer resin that hardens on exposure to ultraviolet light. The printed object is made layer by layer just like it is in FDM. The resulting final product has a high resolution. However, the liquid used for this kind of printing is very expensive when compared to the plastic filament used in FDM. The printers are also expensive.

"There are multiple types of 3D printers. They can handle multiple types of material. Also, you need to know that just knowing how to print is not sufficient to own and run a 3D printer. Having visited a maker space will help you understand what you want to do with the printer, what kind of printer to buy, and how to fix it, if it breaks down. It will also open up the option of always using the maker space to go for your 3D prints, rather than buy the printer," says Harpreet Kaur Sapra, co-founder at MakersBox Innovations.

Assemble or buy premade?
Most 3D printers available are kits that need to be assembled. Premade ones are more expensive. The instructions that come with a kit are fairly straight forward. Think of it as a complicated Lego set. Part of the whole 3D printing experience is getting down and dirty with it. Assembling your kit also gives you an advantage when you need to adjust the components or replace them.

A 3D printer
A 3D printer

"A few aspects that you need to look at when picking up one or assembling one yourself is, what would you like the build volume to be (Width x Height x Length—typical do-it-yourself kind of 3D printers do a 6x6x6 inch size. For most users, this may suffice. The second is the accuracy that it can print at, how easy it is to fix/maintain at your level, and what kind of material it uses. Some 3D printers require material to be bought only from the same manufacturer that sold the printer. This adds to ease of use, but makes you dependent on expensive consumables," says Sapra.

What does it cost?
"An entry-level 3D printer costs as little as R20,000, but you need to remember that 3D printing is a time-consuming process. A small print can run into minutes or hours depending on the complexity of the design. Also, you would want to learn how to design if you are exploring its uses," says Sapra. Among printing mediums, resin and proprietary materials are expensive.

Where can I get one?
Over the last few years, it has become really easy to buy a 3D printer. Amazon and Flipkart both list them. But, before you try to buy one remember that you will need to learn how to maintain it.

A 3D printed Ganesh
A 3D printed Ganesh

"So as long as you are ready to learn, it is easy. But remember, a 3D printer has a combination of electronics, programming and mechanics, and you will need to understand all three concepts. So, if you are someone who hates electronics or ends up using the wrong tool for the wrong screw, you may have a tough time maintaining it," says Sapra.

What can I use it for?
If you learn how to use a 3D modelling software, there is no end to what you can create.

"People have printed puzzles, 3D printer parts to build larger 3D printers. Some have even printed dresses and prosthetics. As long as you can imagine the design, draw it out in a 3D software, and have a 3D printer that can print the volume you are looking for, you can print it," says Sapra.

However, if you are not that adept at it, you can go to various sites and pick up premade models that you can just download and print.

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Machines and raw materials

3D models

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