Sign & Digital Graphics

November '15

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38 • November 2015 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S 3D Printing Technology e latest word on the latest printing technology Stephen Romaniello is an artist, writer and educator who has taught digital art at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona for over 25 years. He is a certified instructor in Adobe Photoshop. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the creative use of digital graphics so- ware. Steve is the founder of GlobalEye systems, a company that specializes in training and consulting in digital graphics soware, color management and printing. B y S T e P H e N R o m A N I e L L o e Digital Eye DIGITAL PRINTING AND FINISHING DIGITAL GRAPHICS layer is a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the whole object. Most commonly, each layer is fused to the previous layer. In this article, I'll describe four of the most common 3D printing technologies in use today. Since 3D printing is a kinetic process and can be a bit challenging to understand, I've included a basic schematic illustration of each system and, as a bonus, I've included Web addresses where you can watch videos that demonstrate each method. 3D Modeling 3D printing begins by creating a virtual design in a 3D modeling program to create an entirely new object, and saved as a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file. An existing object can be digitized by using a 3D scanner. In my October column I published a list of com- monly used mainstream 3D programs that enable the artist or designer to create 3D objects from scratch. We also looked at 3D scanning technologies. How It Works After the 3D model is rendered, and to prepare a digital file for printing, the 3D modeling software "slices" the final model into hundreds or thousands of horizontal layers. When the sliced file is uploaded, the printer software uses the sliced data to print each layer. It reads each slice and gradually builds the object, fusing each layer it to the previous one. There are several 3 D printing technologies but they have one thing in common; they are all addi- tive. That means that the material is built and not carved. They differ primarily in the way the material is deposited and how layers are fused together. What follows are descriptions of four of the most common 3 D printing processes. Vat Photopolymerisian–Stereolithography (SLA) This technology uses a vat of liquid UV-curable photopolymer resin to sequentially deposit material one layer one at a time, and an ultra-violet laser to fuse the layers together. Between each layer, the laser exposes a cross-section of the object in the liquid resin to UV light, which cures and solidifies the pattern and fuses it to the layer below. L ast month I promised that we'd have a look at the most recent and exciting printing technol- ogy—printing in three dimensions. 3D printing is practically science fiction realized. This amazing technology, though conceived decades ago, has emerged in recent years as a production tool for industrial designers, medical technicians and even hobbyists. Nowadays, 3D printers range from multi- million dollar giant industrial robots to inexpensive desktop home printers. Additive Processes 3D printing, or additive manufacturing as it is called in the biz, is a process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file. The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved by depositing successive lay- ers of material until the entire object is realized. Each Figure 1: A schematic of a Stereolithographic (SLA) device. SLA is the most common form of Vat Photopolymerisian. (See the video showing the printing of a scale model of an ancient Roman city using an SLA printer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9m5gEtow88)

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