Custom 3d Printing Design & Development
3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.
The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.
3D printing is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing which is cutting out / hollowing out a piece of metal or plastic with for instance a milling machine.
3D printing enables you to produce complex (functional) shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods.
In the recent years, 3D Printing has taken off with hobbyist and inventors because it allows the fabrication of prototypes and mechanical parts through 3D Cad Design. Before, this process included bending and cutting metal or whittling wood drawn out on a 2D piece of paper. With the new process of 3d Printing, making prototypes and new products can take a matter of months instead of years of work. This guide will give a brief overview of the 3D printing process from 3D modeling to printing and post processing.
In the first step of making a 3D print, a 3D model must first be made using a 3D CAD program. There are a number of free programs that can be downloaded from the internet for beginners like 123D Design, Blender, or SketchUp. On the other hand, users can design with Solidworks, Inventor, or Fusion 360 for more capabilities than the free stuff will allow. Usually, modeling in any of these programs has a simple process by drawing a 2D sketch and extruding it out to make it 3D. Now, the only tricky part is keeping in mind that the model will be made from the bottom up, so any overhanging parts will be printed separately and then merged with the rest of the part as it is printing. Once the modeling is complete, it must then be converted into a mesh body by saving it as a .stl file.
Converting a mesh body into commands for the 3D printer, or Slicing, is generally where 3D printing services start. In this step, the model is plugged into slicing software such as Slic3r, Cura, and Simplify3D. If the printer isn’t open source, it will come with it’s own slicer specifically designed for its firmware and mechanical parts. Once the model is in the software, certain parameters can be set on the printer such as supports, print speed, and hot end temperature. From here, the commands, or .gcode, are sent to the printer for printing. Once on the printer, the machine will work anywhere from one to twenty-four hours on the print depending on how much material is needed to make it.
Once the model is done printing, usually a few tweaks are needed to get the best possible product on the market. Depending on the model, supports must be removed and any residue buildup must be sanded down. It is then packaged and shipped to the customer.
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