What is 3D Printing?

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3D Printing Technology has leap frogged over the last decade. So much, to the point where your children may decide to buy a 3D Printer instead of the, probably out of date, paper printer. There are several different types of printers, however we will concentrate on the most popular one, which is called FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) or FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) method. This type of printer uses a filament or rod of material which is fed into a heated nozzle at a given rate. The nozzle is attached to a mobile head which generally can move about X and Y axis or left/right and front/back. The table or build plate, which the nozzle extrudes the material on raises and lowers about the Z axis or up/down, to deposit material in layers on the surface of the build plate. With a combination of software and G-code the head is instructed to move about its three axes via stepper/servo motors, to construct a given design.

 

The theory is quite simple, however like most things; it takes practice, patience, and the proper equipment to achieve good results. Let’s take a look at the steps to compete a print.

Step 1: The Design: The design must be created and input in a computer via a Computer Aided Design (CAD) software program. The software program displays how the item will look and allows the user to make necessary adjustments to achieve the proper design.

CAD Design

 

Step 2: Exporting the file: The CAD software is capable of exporting the solid model into a format which can be read by another type of software called a slicer.

Export

 

Step 3: Slicing the Model: The slicing software takes the solid model and cuts it up onto slices or layers of G-code. The G-code is read by the printer and translates it into movement of the print head.

Slicer

 

Step 4: Print the design: The printer uses the G-code to determine what design to make and follows the path which it is instructed to go. Once the first layer is deposited, the table shifts downward and the next layer is put on. The printer will continue this method until the item has been completed.

Printing

 

Step 5: Waiting: The 3d printing process is a time consuming endeavor. Some prints can be completed rather quickly in an hour or so but most take much longer, typically several hours and up to several days depending on how complex the design is.

Time

 

Step 6: Testing: Once the print has been completed you must test the design for structure, durability and function and if necessary make modifications to the model.

Time