What is 3D Printing?

3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing.

Wood cutting is an example of traditional subtractive manufacturing.
Wood cutting is an example of traditional subtractive manufacturing.

If you think of this in contrast to traditional machining techniques or subtractive manufacturing that involve cutting away from a block of material. Wood carving or stone sculpture being the most simple concepts, in modern terms this might be a mill, a lathe or a CNC machine.

Quite simply, the following steps are needed in most 3D printing techniques:

  1. Production and design of a 3D model using software like Solidworks, Blender or Sketchup. This can also involve 3D scanning hardware to produce the object. This is almost always the hardest part in the process as 3D model production is a very skilled and involved process.

    3D printing Slicing

    3D printing software does exactly what you can see in this picture – it cuts the objects into layers for the machine to deposit on the print surface.

  2. Slicing of the 3D model into layers in preparation for printing. Almost all modern 3D printing involves printing layers of the chosen part. Software will take the 3D model of step 1 and cut it into layers producing special code (‘gcode’ is often used) that tells the 3D printer the dimensions of each layer, speed of production as well as other information about the machine configuration.
  3. Loading the 3D model to the printer and printing of the parts. Once the sliced model is produced, the model then needs to be added to the printer. And hopefully, that is that.
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