How Much Energy Does 3D Printing Use?
Recent pool taken has proven that 3D is fast becoming an innovation in high demand. Every graphical content in this new age becomes more interesting with 3D detailing and printing. The application of 3D has become vital in animation and drawing. 3D applies to other aspects like printing, which is more versed in the social market. Safe to say that every printing is not complete unless done in 3D.
There are several modern 3D printers developed and used for efficient detailing and display of the job. 3D printers uses different amounts of energy depending on the purpose and the frequency of operation.
To correctly estimate the amount of energy required to achieve 3D printing, it is imperative to understand the types of 3D printers and how they operate. Below are the major types of 3D printers commonly used in this new age:
Major Types Of 3D Printers
1. Stereolithography (SLA) Printers
The first type of 3D printer developed during the early innovation is the Stereolithography printer (short form- SLA). The SLA is a professional 3D printer that uses a laser through a process known as photopolymerization. Photopolymerization is a process that involves the application of liquid resin into a hard plastic using a laser.
SLA involves watertight prototypes with smooth external parts that improve a fine finishing. SLA printers have proven efficient by serving as highly accurate and isotropic parts. These printers operate using optical, thermal, and mechanical properties that fit perfectly into industrial machines' set standards.
For 3D printing that requires high detailing and needs materials with high tolerance, then Stereolithography is the best option. Along with the high detailing features, SLA printers also improve functional effects, molds, and patterns. They are in high demand for services like model making, dentistry, manufacturing, and jewelry to a great extent.
2. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) Printers
SLS printers are high powerful laser printers with improvements that prove effective in 3D printing. These printers operate using a laser at high power to fuse smaller elements of polymerized powder into a single structure. Before fusion, the powder aids part of the printer in smooth printing and removes the unnecessary need for support structures.
With all that being said, this feature ultimately makes SLS the ideal printer for technical geometrics involving negative graphics, interior printing, and thin walls. SLS printers are designed with specified quality mechanical parts that aid the easy injection of materials into the molded parts to support these activities.
Since the SLS printers are effective for complex printings, they are better used on nylon materials for a smooth operation. These printers can only operate effectively on lightweight materials hence their use of nylon materials. Nylon materials are lightweight, flexible yet strong, and durable. They are highly resistant to heat, water, chemicals, and dirt.
Engineers commonly use SLS printers for short-run manufacturing, end-use parts, and functional detailing. The pros of using these printers are that they are cost-effective and aid high productivity. Maintenance of these machine parts comes at a low cost, and no extra need for professional expertise as long as basic rules are followed.
3. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) Printers
As the name implies, these printers fuse deposits into fabrications; they are the most sought-after printers for small-scale 3D printing. FDM printers function by eliminating filaments from thermoplastic materials like- Polylactic acid and ABS using a nozzle at a high temperature. The process melts every layer of the thermoplastic material, giving it a building design as an end product.
Every layer of the plastic is melted upon another until the process is completed. Ideally, FDM printers are the best printers for printing simple prototypes and essential proofing of models. They are highly efficient as their parts are designed to make them aid swift operation and printing of prototypes at a low cost.
FDM printers are considerably affordable, hence their limitations, but they still serve a great purpose efficiently. The only restriction of FDM printers is that they are not highly accurate compared to SLS and SLA printers. More so, they render low-resolution printing, advisably not the best call of printers for complex designs.
This limitation makes FDM not suitable for delicate or intricate materials. However, polishing processes involving mechanical and chemical means can be applied to achieve the best out of FDM printers.
Energy Consumption of 3D Printing
The amount of energy consumed by 3D printers is determined by the components and functions they perform. These printers are designed with high-quality parts to aid their efficiency; since these parts require or emit heat, they need the power to perform their function effectively. Some of these parts include- nozzles, stepper motors, heated build platform, and fans, to mention a few.
Factors that determine energy consumption by these parts and printers include the speed, materials that the printer uses or works with, and the 3D technology used. Precisely, significant factors that influence the energy consumption of 3D printing are the type of 3D printer in use and how long the printing takes to complete. An average 3D printing done on any printer consumes about 50 watts every hour.
Factors That Influence Energy Consumption of 3D Printing
The two major factors that influence the energy consumed for 3D printing are- the type of 3D printer in use and how long the printer takes to complete a job. However, some other factors contribute to energy consumption, and they are enumerated below;
a. Hot End Heating
One of the significant parts of a 3D printer is the hot end. The hot end has a nozzle that requires a high heat supply, hence energy. However, the temperature can be reduced to minimize the amount of energy consumed by the hot end without affecting its function. Temperature serves as a decisive factor when working on certain materials or filaments; setting the temperature to meet the requirement of the material is an effective way to maximize power consumption.
b. Printer Bed Heating
The printer bed and hot end require temperature at a certain level for operation. The role of the printer bed part is to affect bed adhesion and reduce the warping of objects during the printing process. For this cause, the printer bed requires high temperature, mainly when high-temperature materials like ABS and Nylon. More so, the size of the printer bed also influences the energy consumed as more extensive beds require high temperature hence, high energy.
c. Excessive Heat Loss
During 3D printing, some heat is lost due to the excessive temperature of printer filaments. The lost heat results in high energy demand to keep the machine operating. The cooling process can be put in place to cool the heating components, hence reducing energy consumption.
d. Stepper Motors
The stepper motors are divided into two parts based on their function. The first part controls the activity of the extruding gear, while the second part is in charge of nozzle movement during printing. However, these two parts are relatively small in size but usually in control throughout the printing process from the beginning to the end. For this cause, they require a high energy cost to keep them active.
e. Control Panel
The control panel, sometimes referred to as the printer's brain includes all electrical parts of the 3D printer. As the printer's brain, it controls every mobile part to function. Considerably, it consumes less energy, but energy accumulation over a long period of use might be high.
How To Reduce Energy Consumed For 3D Printing
Notably, all 3D printing consumes energy as this is their primary fuel source. However, certain factors can be considered to avoid choosing a printer that requires energy costs above budget. Consider these factors to help reduce and maximize the high price of energy for your 3D printing:
1. Choice Of 3d Printer
Large-scale 3D printers consume high energy due to the demand for their components. Purchase small 3D printers with smaller parts to complete your jobs. Small 3D work with low-temperature materials, hence why they consume less energy.
2. 3d Printing Material
Printing materials that require high temperatures must be duly avoided to reduce the cost of energy. For example, ABS materials require high temperature while PLA filaments only require low temperature for operation.
3. Printing Environment
3D printers require high temperature most of the time for operation; using these machines in a warm temperate environment would suffice to reduce heat loss. This is safe to say that this is an effective method of cooling the parts and filaments while serving at their best.
Perks Of 3D Printing
3D printing has served as a great innovation over the years and has influenced activities in significant professions. Merits and applications of 3D printing include;
- With 3D printing, the manufacturing of prototypes, tools, and molds has been made possible with ease.
- Electrical processes involving communication models and validation manufacturing are now more realistic with high fidelity.
- Used in dental procedures or casting and pressing patterns. Also used in dental bridge models.
- Aids fun and entertainment in developing well-detailed sculptures and models.
- Helps in fitting jewelry pieces and developing rubber molding patterns.
Almost every significant aspect of the profession requires the service of 3D printing, which makes them widely acceptable. 3D printing has brought comfort and fun to every work regardless of the high energy cost on a broad scale. With certain factors enumerated like- a warm temperature and small printers, everyone can efficiently complete a printing process without an unbearable cost of energy
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