Laser cutting and 3D printing

Laser cutting

A laser cutter can use a computer aided design (CAD) to cut or engrave complex shapes out of card, wood, foam, plastic or circuit board.

A laser cutter cuts small shapes into a piece of clear acrylic plastic.

A laser cutter

Advantages of laser cuttingDisadvantages of laser cutting
Precise and accurateEquipment is expensive, as is maintenance
Can cut complex shapesTraining is needed
Engraves and cutsVentilation is needed
Leaves a smooth edge

3D printing

3D printing is an additive computer aided manufacture (CAM) process that follows CAD designs to place layers on top of each other repeatedly and create a 3D object. A filament of plastic (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polylactic acid (PLA), Nylon) is fed into the machine and heated so that it is softened and sticks to the previous layer. It has been utilised in many industries, including in the production of prosthetics, but can be utilised in electronics also.

A yellow plastic model of a prosthetic hand being 3D printed.
3D printed model of a prosthetic hand
Advantages of 3D printingDisadvantages of 3D printing
No moulds or formers are neededEquipment is expensive, as is maintenance
Alterations can be made to the design digitally before wasting materialsTraining is needed
It uses hardwearing, durable, waterproof and lightweight plasticsCan only use plastics
Can create complex shapesThe layering process is slow