How 3D Printers Actually Work?

What is 3D Printing?

Additive Manufacturing or 3D Printing is a process to manufacture objects in three-dimensions. The term was first coined back in the 2010s. The manufacturers then started referring this 3D printing term with the industrial manufacturing. Some of the most general principles included in 3D printing are Modeling, using any computer-aided designing tool, Printing, the main part of the process, and Finishing.

How does it actually Work?

The computer controls the process of manufacture. The designer develops a 3D Model data first, in a 3D modeler or any similar electronic data source such as Additive Manufacturing File. The 3D printer then reads the data in an STL file type and then starts printing the design.

If we dig deeper, there are numerous processes and different type of equipment are available to create a 3-dimensional object. Some of them are Power Bed, Continuous Liquid Interface Production, Light Polymerized Process, and Extrusion. The main difference between these processes is an arrangement of layers in their processes. As mentioned earlier, The whole process consists of three parts, modeling, printing, and finishing. Following is a defined way in which it works.

First of all the process requires a 3D model which can be created with a Computer Aided Design software or any other modeler. A plain digital camera or a 3D scanner would do the work too but using a CAD software results in a reduced error while printing. Similar to a physical preparation of geometric data, the same data is required for this model too. Once a model is designed, printing work start on it.

The second part in 3D printing is Printing itself. Now before initiating the printing process, the STL file, from which the printer reads the data, needs to be checked for errors. Mostly the modeling software produces errors which create problems later. These errors are manifold errors, noise shells, self-intersection, face normals, and holes.

An STL generation is known as ‘repair‘ which fixes such errors. The STL file is then processed through a software called slicer which converts it into thin layers. After getting all the related information i.e. the resolution, X-Y resolution in dpi, G-code etc, the printer prints the model.

The last step in this process is Finishing. In this process, a small surface finish to the manufactured model is performed to smooth the model’s surface. While the printer-produced resolution is sufficient and has very fewer errors, finishing is still required. This is mainly done with acetone or similar solvents.

Health Issues

Different type of health concerns has been raised related to health and safety. An institute with the name of NIOSH studied this issue and stated that a peak of particle emission from a 3D printer has been observed once the printing is started and is returned at a baseline levels 100 minutes after printing ended.

While the 3D printers are not as much common right now, advancements are being done to the concept to make it more useful.