3D printing is an additive manufacture technique in which material is summed up or transformed to get the desired shape of the object.
As all 3D Printing technologies (FDM, SLA, SLS, etc.) lies on this technique, an explanation of Additive manufacturing is convenient before describing the process of the 3D printing.
Additive manufacturing Technique
Most traditional manufacturing processes like CNC or injection molding, lies on machining a block of material until reaching the desired shape or creating the object using expensive molds.
Instead, additive manufacturing lies in dispensing material layer by layer or transforming material to form the desired object.
Additive manufacturing is the technique used by 3D printers whose price is inexpensive in the case of desktop 3D printers.
3D printers are very easy to use and maintain and are very suited for fast creation of prototypes or manufacturing of small functional parts.
3D printing is not well suited for manufacturing in chain as multiples pieces that are printed with the same model, material and printer are not totally equal.
Advantages of Additive manufacturing
We can summarize the most important advantages of Additive manufacturing:
- There are 3D printers for sale in different rates of prices. Cheap DIY Desktop printers can cost less than 100 dollars. Anyone can have a 3D printer at home right now.
- 3D printing materials for desktop printer are very accessible, too. Filament spools can cost 15-30 dollar and a resin’ bottle rounds 40-50 dollars.
- Molds are not needed to produce parts. 3D printing material is enough to manufacture the piece even though support be necessary.
- Every shape can be reached. Combining a good design of the 3D model with a good slicing configuration and a good 3D printer, high quality objects can be manufactured.
- Prototyping is possible for everyone. Again, a 3D printer is really in comparison with a CNC machine, for example. Everyone can get a 3D machine and Create prototypes as needed.
- There are many 3D printing services available in the market. If you need to print a piece but you don’t have the printer, you can pay an online 3D printing service which have modest prices.
- 3D printing is a great business. Around the 3D printer world there are a lot of opportunities to whom can approach them. Not only selling 3D printers is affordable but 3D printer maintenance, selling of printing materials, selling of replacement or designing 3D models are examples of things can be done to create a business.
- Medicine, dentistry, automotive, restaurants, robotics, accessories stores and jewelry are some examples of applications that have benefited from additive manufacturing.
3D Printing Process
5 steps are required in order to turn a digital model in a physical piece. The process is the in all cases, independently of the 3D Printer technology. More time or different procedures will be executed in every particular 3D Printer but the basic process is always followed.
What do you want to print? The first step of the process is to get the 3D Model of that you want to print. This Tridimensional Model is the result of 3D Modeling using 3D Design Software.
There are many 3D Modeling Programs specifically created for 3D Printing each one with its own features and advantages. CAD programs are another great option to get 3D Models of your piece.
In this stage, 3D designers can be a useful support for you as they are trained and have the experience to determine the best design considerations for a very well printed object.
If you want to experiment with 3D Modeling, you can try free design programs like Tinkercad or 3D Slash.
On the other hand, 3D Models Clusters sites like Thinkiverse are an excellent option as you just download the 3D Model ready to be sliced and printed.
The most common file format used is .STL. Obj and Amf are other options available today. All 3D Modeling software and CAD Programs for 3D Printing must be able to export the model in one of those file formats, as that ́s the file type supported by most slicing programs.
After the model is created, a file manipulation is required to be able to set the conditions for the printing on the specific 3D Printer in order. Those settings can involve creation of support on the object, setting the layer height or defining the build platform dimensions.
Once settings are done, the model is converted into code as the 3D printer cannot read STL file but understand lines of codes.
Gcode is the machine language used by 3D Printers firmware. Slicers do the file conversión and generate the gcode file which now can be loaded to the 3D Printer.
Although, slicer programs comes with each printer in a proprietary environment, programs like Cura 3D, Slic3r or Simplify 3D are excellent options to replace them.
Once, the model (converted in g code) is loaded in the 3D Machine, the printing work can be started. This third stage is dependent on the 3D Printer technology. Resin 3D Printers create the piece from liquid resin while SLS 3D Printers use Polymer Powder as printing material to form the 3D Object.
Removal of the printed object
As the 3D Printing is finished, you can extract the object from the 3D Printer. This procedure will vary from one type of printer to another. When using FDM 3D Printers, the printed object can be removed from a bed using a blade.
ABS 3D Printers will require you to wait for temperature going down before you can be able to take the 3D piece from the bed.
SLS 3D Printed pieces are completely covered by powder which have to be removed using specific procedures.
When working with resin printers, the piece is bathed in liquid and a drying procedure is needed.
3D Post processing
In order to get the desired surface and color, a port processing stage is carried out. Again, depending on the 3D Printer technology, one or another post processing procedure will be executed.
Filament 3D Printed pieces use to demand the removal of supports added during the slicing process. Resin Printed object always need UV curation time to get a better strength of the part.