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What is 3D Printing?

3D Printing, also known as Rapid Prototyping, is the process of quickly engineering 3D prototypes, parts, or mockups of what a product will eventually look like. These prototypes are typically used to test the product’s technical feasibility or consumer interest.

There are several common terms that are frequently used when referring to this type of technology. Some of the more popular names include: Rapid prototyping (RP), 3D Printing, 3D Modeling, and Additive Manufacturing.

Common Questions:

Watch What 3D Printing Can Do:

Technical Information:

Stratasys Product Brief:
A chart that lists the results of tests conducted at Stratasys to establish the physical properties for PC and ABS utilizing the FDM process.

Material Safety Data Sheet:
MSDS for the P400 ABS from Stratasys.



Is There a Difference Between the Names?

In regards to the names 3D Printing, 3D Modeling, and Additive Manufacturing, there is no difference. They can be considered synonyms and are interchangeable terms for all additive processes, independent of application.

However, there is a difference between 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping. The reason being that 3D Printing is a process, similar to that of machining, molding, and casting. Meanwhile, Rapid Prototyping is one of many applications that fall below the 3D printing umbrella. Thus, Rapid Prototyping is a type of 3D Printing.

How Does Rapid Prototyping Work?

Rapid Prototyping (RP) is an additive manufacturing technology used to build a physical, three-dimensional part by gradually applying layer upon layer of material. The process begins with taking a virtual design from Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. The 3D printing machine reads the data from the CAD drawing and lays down successive layers of liquid, powder, or sheet material — building up the physical model from a series of cross sections. These layers are automatically joined together to create the final shape.

Rapid Prototyping uses a standard data interface, known as the STL file format, to translate from the CAD software to the 3D prototyping machine. The STL (Standard Tessellation Language) file approximates the shape of a part or assembly using triangular facets. Learn about the CAD-to-STL Process Here

What is Fused Deposition Modeling?

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is a solid-based Rapid Prototyping process that extrudes production-type materials, layer by layer, to build a 3D model. The build material is added to the FDM machine in a filament form contained in a cartridge. The FDM machine feeds the material from the cartridge up to a head that heats and melts the material. The head traverses in an X and Y direction, and extrudes material onto a platform to create a two-dimensional cross section of the model. The material quickly solidifies, and the build platform drops where the next layer is extruded upon the first. This process continues until the 3D model is complete. FDM prototypes are high strength, functional, and hands-on prototypes.

About the 3D Printing Machine

Solid Image 3D proudly uses the Dimension Elite 3D Printer by Stratasys. It features the finest resolution of any Stratasys Design Series Performance 3D Printer, and is made specifically for those who demand ABS prototypes with exquisite detail. Driven by Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology, it prints in nine colors of real ABS thermoplastic.

What Material is Used for Printing in 3D?

The process of 3D printing is done with durable thermoplastic materials that become soft and moldable when heated, and return to a solid when cooled. Specifically, we print with ABS (Acrylic Butadiene Styrene), which is a strong plastic with mild flexibility that can take many forms. Inside the 3D printer, the ABS plastic travels through a tube to the print head, where it’s heated to a semi-liquid state and extruded in thin, accurate layers.

Natural ABS plastic is a soft milky-beige color, but can take on other colors with added colorants. It’s strength, flexibility, machinability, and higher-temperature resistance makes it a preferred plastic for engineers and professional applications. Dimension parts built in ABS plastic have been used for both functional and field tests – from wind tunnel testing, to camera mounts on a M1A Bradley tank, to a spray gun running at 60 psi.

How Long Does 3D Printing Take?

Typically, Rapid Prototyping systems can produce 3D models within a few hours. Yet, this can vary widely, depending on the type of machine being used and the size and number of models being produced. Your order can usually be printed and shipped to you within just a few days.

Get A Quote Want to know how soon your order can be delivered?

The Benefits of 3D Printing:

  • Fast and effective communication of design ideas.
  • Effective validation of design, fit, form, and function.
  • Greater design flexibility, with the ability to quickly run through multiple design versions.
  • Fewer production design flaws, and better end products.

Build Dimensions & Resolutions:

The Stratasys Dimension Elite machine has a platform which allows the production of parts with a maximum build size of 8x8x12″ (203mm x 203mm x 305mm). Though, larger parts are not a problem! We can slice oversized parts into multiple STL files to be built separately and then assembled after completion.

Layer Resolutions along the X and Y axis are either 0.007″ (0.178mm), or for times when you don’t need the finest Dimension resolution, this 3D printer lets you speed up printing with a layer thickness of 0.010″ (0.254 mm) for faster 3D printing.

The minimum wall thickness for a part is either 0.030” (0.76mm) for 0.007″ layer resolution parts, or 0.050” (1.27mm) for 0.010″ layer resolution parts.

Workstation compatibility:
Windows XP/Windows 7

Network connectivity:
Ethernet TCP/IP 10/100 base T

Size and weight:
27 x 36 x 41″ (686 x 914 x 1041 mm); 300 lbs. (136 kg)

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