3D printing (opens in new tab) has revolutionised how people can quickly and inexpensively make products from replacements parts and personalised products to prototyping - without the need to manufacture in high volumes.
But one of the most common misconceptions is that anything can be 3D printed. Also, not all 3D printers are built the same and there is no guarantee that printing the same part on two different machines will results in two identical parts.
Will it 3D print? (opens in new tab) is a free online service which can not only simulate what your part will look like on a range of 3D printers but also tell you how long it will take to print, how much it will cost and the environmental impact printing it will have.
Some of the results are quite surprising. Each 3D printer has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on what you want to print. The Concept Laser M3 Linear can get up to 30 microns of detail, although that accuracy comes at a price, while the Makerbot Replicator has a tolerance of 270 microns but makes up for it with a much quicker build time and a larger build volume that can be printed.
The service also enables you to reorientate, rescale, and reposition your part, as well as export it ready to be 3D-printed or - if you don't have a part to upload - you can use the demo parts to see the effects each printer has on different parts.
Words: Christian Harries (opens in new tab)
Christian Harries is a freelance product designer and recent graduate from Ravensbourne. His portfolio can be seen here (opens in new tab).
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Have used 3D printing in a creative project? Tell us about it in the comments below!