What is 3D printing?

  • 3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing.  Additive manufacturing is the process of adding layers of material, one on top of another, to manufacture a shape or part without removing material.  There are several types of additive manufacturing but the one most common in 3D printing is (FFF) or Fused Filament Fabrication. Typically this involves a plastic filament which is heated to a molten state and forced through a tiny nozzle. The nozzle is attached to a moveable head, which are controlled by motors. The head moves about vertically and horizontally via the motors and linkage system, extruding the plastic on a flat surface.  A design is made when head moves around and deposits a thin layer of material.  Once a single layer is extruded, the build plate moves down a bit and the next layer is applied. The printer continues to build up layer after layer of material until a piece is created.


What can I have printed?

  • You can print nearly anything; it is mostly dependent on the size and design of the item. But, in general, as long as it fits within the window of build area of the printer, it should be possible. Designs with heavy angles can be built with breakable supports in order to keep the finished product stable on the build table.


What materials can be used?

  • Generally, there between 20 to 30 types of materials that can be used for 3D printing. The two most common are PLA (Polylactic Acid) and ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene). PLA is derived from corn and provides very good extrusion properties, but is not as durable as ABS. PLA is the material of choice for many products because the material is thermally stable, adheres to the build table well, and can withstand some abuse. On the other hand, ABS has a higher melt temperature than PLA and is more durable. However ABS has a high shrink rate and tends to deform on the build plate. But new materials are coming out all the time. Many of these materials combine a base material with a filler or additive to change the properties of the material for a given application. These additives include bamboo, brass, carbon fiber, wood, and other impregnated materials.


What colors are available for printing?

  • There are many colors available for 3D printing. Primary colors are most popular, however an array of other selections are available. In addition to solid colors, glow-in-dark or clear is also available. Check out the full list of colors available on Colors Page.


What level of detail can be produced?

  • The level of detail can vary with each individual printer as well as material used. In general, more detail is achieved by using higher quality equipment with finer resolution. Some machines can produce a layer thicknesses as small as 20 microns (1/3 the thickness of a sheet of paper). However, this also causes longer build times, up to 75%.


How long does it take?

  • 3D printing is a slow process. Each layer of material is applied at a rate where the material is molten enough to adhere to the previous layers, but not to the point where the pressure is so great that the process becomes erratic. Simple prints can be completed in an hour or two, but more complex prints take several hours and, in some cases, several days to complete.


How big can a print be?

  • The print size is related to the size of equipment used to produce it. Each printer has a maximum allowable print size and a minimum resolution which it can print at. Of course, the larger the printer the larger the allowable print size. Most desktop machines range from the smaller 4” (10.1cm) cube to the larger 12” (30.4cm) cube build area. Other machines can print up to 2’ (0.6m) and larger.


Are the prints durable?

  • 3D printed designs are generally very durable and for the most part impact resistant. Of course this is highly dependent upon the design and care which was taken to manufacture and design the part, as well as material used.


Can I have a multi-colored print?

  • Yes. A single item can be produced using an assortment of colors. Multi-colored items can be achieved by switching the material during the build process. Using this method, a single printed item can contain as many colors as chosen. This method restricts the color separation to be in the same direction as the layers are applied.


Can I have my model printed?

  • The answer is yes, but it must be in the correct format. Slicing software’s use .stl, .obj, .dae, or .amf files to generate the G-Code. Files like this can be found on websites which specialize in 3D printing files. Please email us for a quote Contact.


I have a photograph of an item. Can I get it printed?

  • Designs can be constructed from pictures, napkin drawings, or just an idea which you may have. Some Information like size, shape, and how the item should look is required. Custom work requires more time than pre-designed products; however all are welcomed at 3D Printed Solid.