A quick guide to explain how 3D printing works – its not magic or sci-fi – but it is pretty amazing…
I have been using my 3D printer for about three years now, but I have to say two of those years were spent trying to master the thing before I could regularly and consistently get usable results!
The main things to master are the material, the settings, understanding temperatures and print orientation! Once you’ve done that you’re laughing!
One of the key things I did in the learning process was to log every print run and its settings and most importantly the outcome and the time the printer took to complete its run. I now have an invaluable record of over 1000 print runs to check back on and help me decide on settings for new prints or if I have a problem I can look at what I did to resolve it last time!
A brief explanation of 3D printing...
3D printing is very similar to printing a photo with your home computer and printer.
You have an electronic document which, instead of a photo, has a drawing of an object in three dimensions on it. (See the first picture below)
The computer is connected to the printer and you tell the printer to make the object. Just like printing a photo you click print (after ticking some boxes to tell it what settings to use) A clever bit of software takes the 3D drawing and ‘slices’ it into horizontal layers which the printer can print one at a time and precisely on top of each other.
Instead of ink the 3D printer has a spool of filament (like a giant spool of thread on a sewing machine) The clever bit is that the print head, instead of spraying drops of ink on the page, melts the plastic filament and squirts out a line of plastic (like squeezing a tube of toothpaste). Objects are usually printed with a honeycomb pattern inside the object to save on material and help control the cooling temperature (another variable which can prove tricky to master). The third picture on the top row shows the in progress print.
The horizontal slices stop and start as needed to build up the layers to make the 3D object.
Other pictures: (bottom row) a completed print run of cans boxes and packets. My EVE doll parts. A failed print run of ornaments.
Click on any of the pictures below to open them in a lightbox (bigger image)
See more pictures of 3D printed items in the GALLERY, read about what is in development in the 3D PRINTING BLOG, and see some epic disasters (and successes) on the IF… page