How and where can you make a 3D print?

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As the phenomenon of 3D printing is taking shape on a global scale, new avenues in the world of consumerism are solidifying, giving way for what is being touted as the biggest revolution since the phenomenon of the internet.

New visions for the formative technology have already been molded into creation at the Raidy Printing Group headquarters, so that being able to churn that curious resin into action and watch 3D prints materialize at the push of a button is now an accessible reality – and not just by veteran designers, but just about anybody.

“People tend to assume that 3D printing is a complex process which requires an auto-cad designer background. That isn’t true at all,” quips Doumit Raidy, Managing Director of Raidy Printing Group, motioning at the machines with a Gopro harnessed to his hand in a four prong grip-cum-phone holder he 3D printed himself. “There are a multitude of websites with pre-designed structures of all shapes and sizes as big as google, where all you have to do is browse, then download the pre-designed Auto-cad file, save it on your SD card, and bam, you have a 3D print in the making. It’s that simple.”

Raidy Printing Group, standing at the cusp of the sector as one of the main players in the industry on a region-wide scale, has taken perfect measure and will soon be wowing the Lebanese market with the cutting edge technology as the exclusive distributor of two European brands already under wraps. With machines of both industrial and retail capacities already available for purchase, heeding the entrepreneurial call to pioneer the technology in the Middle East involves re-orienting a market to the all-new technology, and evening out the fallacies that attach to it.

“3D printing is a technology called additive manufacturing. What this means is that it is the result of adding one layer on top of the other,” he explains, as we scrutinize three machines propped back-to-back in his office while in mid-action. “This is in stark contrast to conventional manufacturing as we know it, which is called ‘subtractive manufacturing’ – a process in which you subtract material to achieve the shape”, says an animated Doumit, while running his fingers across a 3D printed iPhone holder to highlight the difference.  “From this perspective, it answers to an environmental need inasmuch as it offers a wealth of benefits to anybody with a vision.”

But beyond the wow factor, 3D printing is a breakthrough as the versatile concoction is oozing into multiple fields, from architecture, to medicine, to carpentry, to prototyping, to the fashion industry – the list goes on. “What you’re essentially doing is giving the consumer the ability to be his own prototype designer”, quips Doumit, building on the dynamism that 3D printing has to offer to the general populous.

“You’ll often find yourself needing a tiny tweak for a household good that broke, and you can’t find commercially, because that tiny piece in question isn’t mass produced. That would often mean you have to live with your product being damaged, or buy a new one. Not any more. With 3D printing you can custom design any structure and fit it right back in”.

Therein lies the magic in 3D printing. As seen from this vantage point, what it essentially does is transform every customer into being their own prototype designer. “The beauty is that you can now create any structure by yourself. You don’t need to go to a third party to produce a model, or be hampered by paying an arm and a leg for mass production when aiming to create a prototype. You can do away with the middleman and watch your own visions materialize into concrete – or platic models, to be more precise”, he goes to say while building on the notion that many industries can benefit from this tenfold, from architecture and beyond.

And on a consumer level, the benefits are baffling. Customizing your own Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge or iPhone case is no longer a question of browsing through retail store aisles.

It is instead a question of browsing the World Wide Web, zoning in on the design you like, tweaking it according to your preferences and making a 3D print.

The time consumed in the printing process depends on the resolution needed, as well as the size and the complexity of the shape. Higher resolutions and more sophisticated objects require more time, with prints spanning 2 hours to 24 hours, Doumit explains with “print time varying according to the size of the printer you’re using, the size of the prints you’re aiming for, and the materials and filaments you would have opted in”

But today, 3D printers are accessible to the public, with more standardized machines becoming more affordable and simpler to use.

“An architect or a designer would use Autocad, but for anyone like you and I, or your day-to-day hobbyist, there are a lot of platforms where you can download files for free. Everything you see here that’s printed is downloaded free one hundred percent, I didn’t pay any penny”, he says while motioning to the vicinity of his office which is strewn with 3D prints of all shapes and sizes, ranging from basic iPhone holders to Go Pro stands to ornate Christmas decorations to intricate mini-skyscraper models.

“You download the file for free, you scale it to the size that you need, depending on your machine as well, you choose the color that you want, several filaments, you have red, black, grey and bronze to name a few, and you print. It’s a very easy machine to operate.”

3D printers are charged with filament spools to top horizontal layers of material with specified types and colors. Using additive manufacturing, solid objects are rendered via digital files from a Computer Aided Design Software. The printers manipulate Fused Filament Fabrication technology in which filaments of a specific material such, as plastic or resin, are deposited by layers to produce the final shape.

But 3D printing, contrary to what is normally assumed, is not limited to plastic only. “I mentioned that we mainly print in plastic, but I have a machine that can print in clay, in bronze, in silver and in wood. It’s a flexible material, and it becomes a composite of wood covering the PLA material. It might not be actual wood, but it really looks like it. The same applies to bronze and silver. In Europe there are even machines that create 3D prints in chocolate. I saw it myself!”

source: T3 magazine

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