3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a recently-introduced process to render a design into life. While it was initially introduced in the 90s, we’ve noticed a significant increase in the past years.
This is because the machines needed for this process have become more accessible to common individuals. Aside from that, there are companies establishing themselves to provide the average consumer with 3D printing services.
For interested individuals, or people who would want to bring their custom designs to life with these machines, here’s a short guide to the 3D printing process!
The 3D Printing Process
Essentially, there is a general set of steps a person undertakes when they’re attempting to create an object via 3D printing.
First, of course, is deciding what you want to make. It can be anything really, but we do recommend that you start with smaller, simple objects especially if you’re a novice.
This is so you can familiarise yourself with how your printer works, and so you can also save up on resources as well!
The next step is to design the model you want. You can use any type of software, but we do advise using computer-aided-design software (CAD).
CADs are helpful as their interface lets users create designs in 2D or 3D. For three-dimensional models, this type of software shows how the model looks on the inside and outside as well.
The third step comes after you’ve finished the design of your model. One important thing to take note of is to make sure to convert it into a STL file!
This format is responsible for storing the information of the model, such as its surface geometry. When used along with a 3D slicer, the full model can be replicated by the printer well.
The second to the last step is to slice the model into layers. This is done so that the printer can understand how to create the object.
After that is done, the user can now obtain the final file that the printer can read. This leads to our last step which is print it and watch the machine do its magic!
Different Types of 3D Printing
There are actually different types of 3D printers. Each of them produces a different kind of output, so it’s best to know what kind of method you’d use to get the model you want.
The first type is called a stereolithography (SLA). This process starts off with liquid plastic, which then is cured or hardened by the printer to form a 3D object.
Using a SLA 3D printer can produce smooth and glossy-looking models.
The next type is called a selective laser sintering (SLS) printer. SLS uses tiny particles of ceramic, glass or plastic to form 3D objects.
What this kind does is that it fuses these small materials together with the heat from its laser to form the model. This process forms the model layer by layer, so expect a more accurate model to form with this kind of printer!
Following the two types is the fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printer. This is mostly used for industries, especially in modeling, prototyping and producing new products.
Compared to SLS, the FDM printer heats a thermoplastic material to a semi-liquid state and molds it to form a model layer by layer.
The last 3D printer type is called multi-jet modeling (MLM). This works similarly to an ink-jet printer.
MLM printers can create wax-like plastic models. Said machine forms a model layer by layer by spraying a glue-like substance onto a layer of resin powder.
Where Can I Get 3D Model Blueprints?
Well, you can either make them yourself with CADs or you can also just look up some prints online.
If you’re interested in searching for ready-to-go blueprints, Thingiverse has a lot of options for you to choose from.
Where Can You Buy Materials For 3D Printing?
There are two types of printing material you will need for 3D printing.
The first one is called Polylactic Acid (or PLA). This is a biodegradable material and melts at lower temperatures compared to the other printing filament.
PLA does not give off any fumes, which is great! It also appears shiny and products made out of it have a sleek, polished appearance.
The other material is called Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS). This is an oil-based polymer that is used to create toys because it is strong and resilient.