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3D Printing - Selecting the Best Printing Method for Your Project
The method of 3D printing you choose is governed by some key factors. These are as follows:
How many 3Ds do you need printed?
What is the intended use of the end product?
Is the budget tight for the project?
What sort of artwork is intended for the discs? Photographic images or block colours?
Once these factors have been considered, you can make a decision about which 3D printing process is most appropriate for your particular project.
Digital 3D Printing
This 3D printing method utilises a printer that employs the same process as an inkjet printer that many home users will be familiar with. In fact, many home printers can be equipped with a 3D printing tray for use with pre-manufactured 3DRs with a printable surface. A company printing 3Ds professionally will most likely be using an inkjet printer that is specifically for the printing of 3Ds. These printers have an auto-loading mechanism enabling the unattended printing of up to 200 3Ds. The printer automatically loads unprinted discs and unloads the finished discs onto separate spindles.
Digital 3D printing using one of these printers is slow but there are no fixed set up costs involved. This is fine if the order quantity of discs is less than 100, or 200 if there is no fixed, imminent deadline for the order.
This method of printing is capable of producing highly professional looking 3Ds as an inkjet printer can print at very high resolutions. The printed surface does need protection though and a layer of clear lacquer needs to be applied to the discs to prevent moisture coming into contact with the ink through handling or exposure to damp environments. This necessity adds significantly to the overall project time. Printable discs are available which have a specially formulated surface that becomes water resistant after printing but they are more expensive than regular printable discs and so a decision has to be made depending upon the urgency of the project; extra expense for water resistant discs or extra time for the application of a layer of clear lacquer?
3D Screen Printing
The 3Ds can have a base colour applied first over the whole disc area which means that a screen printed 3D design can consist of a total of 6 different colours maximum.The ink used in the 3D screen printing process is UV sensitive and as each colour is applied at a station, the disc moves under a UV lamp as it rotates round to the next station. The UV lamp cures the ink and this only requires a moment of exposure.
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