How do 3D Printers Work

3D printing also known as additive manufacturing is the process of turning three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file. This creation is achieved by using additive processes. By laying down successive layers of material, the entire object is created. Each layer is seen as thinly sliced horizontal cross section of the eventual object.

How does it work exactly?

The first step is to make a virtual design of the object that is to be created. This is made in a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file by using a 3D modeling program (if it is a totally new object) or a scanner (if it is a copy of an existing object). This scanner makes a 3D digital copy of the object and installs it into a 3D modeling program.

The software slices the final model into hundreds or thousands of horizontal layers in order to prepare the digital file created in a 3D modeling program. Once this file is uploaded in the 3D printer, the object is created layer by layer. The 3D printer interprets each slice or the 2D image and continues to create the object by blending every layer alongside one another without the layering visible. This results to one three-dimensional.

Methods and technologies of 3D printing

Not every 3D printer uses the same technology to create these objects. There are various ways to concretize this and these ways differ mainly in the way that the layers build in order to create the desired finished product. Some methods use softening or melting material which produces layers. These methods are known as the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Fused Deposition Modeling. Another method of 3D printing is to lay the liquid materials that have been cured with different technologies.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

This technology uses high power laser that fuses small particles into metal, plastic, glass or ceramic into a mass that is to be the desired three-dimensional object. The laser selectively fuses the powdered material by scanning the layers or cross sections that has been generated by the modeling program on the powder bed’s surface. After each cross section has been scanned, the powder bed is lowered by one layer of thickness. A new layer of material is applied on top and the process is repeated until the object is completed. All untouched powder remains as what it is and becomes a structure that supports the object. There is no need for the support structure if the SLS has an advantage over SLA.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

The FDM technology works with plastic filament or metal wire that is unwound from a coil and supplies the material to an extrusion nozzle which turns the flow on and off. The nozzle is heated in order to melt the material and is moved in both horizontal and vertical directions b numerically controlled mechanism. This is directly controlled by the computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software package.

SLS and FDM are two of the popular 3D printing techniques that are used by entrepreneurs and individuals who are enthusiastic about these 3D creations.

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