The process of making functional engineering models is a time intensive and costly process. Any iteration that needs to be done could possibly render the prototype useless and could also cause budgetary constraints. Previously due to the use of conventional manufacturing processes like milling, CNC and turning there were severe limitations as to what can be made and what can’t. Also complex contours or surfaces had to be milled with highly sophisticated machines like 6-axis CNC which is not cost effective at all. This would severely affect project development timelines and their effective deliverability.
With the dawn of 3D printing, the process of developing engineering prototypes became extremely easy and cost effective not to mention the ultra-fast production times. Any complex contours, for example like that of aero foils can be 3d printed in a matter of hours while maintaining dimensional accuracy within the thickness of a hair strand. All this in a fraction of a cost and time of what it would otherwise take making them using conventional manufacturing processes.
The aero foil designed by NIT Calicut students was made using FDM 3d printing process using PLA material in under 24 hours despite the model being as big as 600mmx600mmx400mm. The model was printed in multiple sections and later joined using industrial grade adhesives with the help of a custom designed jig, also 3d printed to maintain dimensional accuracy and form of the model. The model was later post processed and painted according to their requirements to deliver the surface texture demanded by the design.
Sample images of the aero foil made by NIT Calicut students. 3D Aerofoil-1 3D printed Aerofoil-2
3D printing can also be used to precision moving components like gears and pulleys. Complex mechanisms like planetary gears can also be made to imitate the functioning of the mechanism in a real world application. Here is an example.
Planetary gear box Gear mechanism