The 3D Printing technology is not new however it has gained most of its attention in the recent few years. Back in 1983, Charles Hull created a process that made it possible to create objects using 3D models designed using CAD (Computer-Aided Design). This process was called SLA (Stereolithography). This technology was originally designed to create a prototype but nowadays it has become very affordable and able to reach more and more audiences. Not only prototypes but in recent years it has made its way into many industries and now we can create actual solid products using 3D printing.
So, are you looking forward to buying a 3D printer? It’s a great idea to have one whether it is for a manufacturing plant or an individual. However, while thinking about operating a 3D printer you must also be wondering how to 3D printer actually works? Well, this article is everything you need. Before you even start the printer, you will need a design first and for that, you must learn how to use the 3D printer software. So, in this article take an in-depth look at 3D printers, a step by step guide on using a 3D printer software along with some recommendations.
What is 3D Printing?
3D Printing is a part of the additive manufacturing process. This method utilizes additives, these are materials such as plastic, ceramic, resin to create a solid object based on a computer designed 3D model. Anything you might think of and can design virtually using a modeling software can be created using a 3D printer. You can print a household item, toys, showpieces, pieces of jewelry, instruments, and even weapons. This is a revolutionary technology and has great potential in the future ahead. We can create new types of products since we have unlimited possibilities and also reduce the cost of the manufacturing process in the long run.
This technology contrasts from the regular subtractive manufacturing process which involves molds, cutting and final post-processing of the product. This is where the technology stands out as it can turn digital designs into actual physical objects using a variety of materials. Whether its plastic, resin, ceramic, metal or even wood. There are hundreds of different types of filament you can buy to unleash your creativity. However, before you even touch a 3D printer you need a design in order to proceed. So, moving on, let’s have an in-depth look at how the 3D software works and how you can create a 3D model using that.
What are the Steps involved in 3D Printing?
That was a quick introduction on how the technology works, now take a look at full details about the software so that you will be having a clear idea of how things work out before buying the 3D printer.
The process of 3D printing starts with creating a digital design or scanning existing objects using a 3D scanner. You can choose any design out of millions that are available online for free. Simply search for keywords like Vacuum Hose adapters, Phone Stand, Water Bottle Holder, Toys, etc. followed by the suffix “3D Printer Model” Otherwise you can also choose to create your own model using a CAD or equivalent software.
Once the model is ready it must go through the slicing process. This might already be included in your CAD software or you can use a separate slicing software. This breaks the model into two-dimensional horizontal layers like a slice in a bread. The software also determines the best path for the 3D printer to build each layer.
The file is then converted into STL file format (Standard Tessellation Language) which is developed so that the 3D printers can read the file. This file is then transferred to the 3D printer and at this point, we can specify the size and orientation for the printing.
Now to prepare for a new print job you must add the filament you are going to use. When you start the printing process it will build each layer which is usually around 0.1 mm thick and add another layer on top of each other. This process might take anywhere from hours to several days depending upon the object you are creating.
Once the printing is done remove the object from the printer. The final object which comes out doesn’t require any cutting, only some softening around the edges. That’s it, now you can use your newly printed object.
Here’s are some of the best 3D Printer Software
There are a lot of different 3D Printer software out there but choosing the right one can be very difficult. Here are some of the best free to use the software.
1. Ultimaker Cura
This is great software for beginners. It is completely free and open-source software. You can work with STL, OBJ, X3D and 3MF file formats. It gives you adjustment tools to scale your model and you can print on multiple networks and monitor all jobs from one interface.
This is free browser-based software with a simple and intuitive interface. It has a collection of 3D design tool and you can also import 2D and 3D models here. It allows you to do laser cutting and also offers cloud storage.
Meshlab is an open-source system for processing and editing 3D triangular meshes. You can do 3D reconstruction, 3D color mapping and texturing, 3D printing, offsetting, and hollowing and closing.
Meshmixer includes a variety of tools to optimize 3D CAD designs for 3D printing. It is a free software downloadable for Windows and Mac. It allows you Drag-and-drop mesh mixing, Automatic print bed orientation optimization, layout, and packing.
3D printing is an amazing example of technological enhancement. If you are interested in learning the process of 3D printing for your personal or commercial use then go for it. If you just want to get a 3D print done then it is better to rent a 3D printer or find a service that will do it for you.
Hopefully, after reading this article you are now familiar with the steps involved in 3D printing and learned how the software part works. In the recent few years, these printers have become much affordable, if you got one and have some issues while using it then don’t forget to drop them in the comments below for us to check it out.