Today there are three main techniques to manufacture a product, they are subtractive, transformative and additive or 3D printing as it is commonly called. 3D printing is a relatively new technology in the field of manufacturing with the first machine being invented in 1983 by Chuck Hull. 3D printing is different to the other two techniques as it 'builds' a product from the ground up much like building a house whereas subtractive manufacturing takes a block of material and 'cuts' the material down to the required shape. This is a very wasteful process but also a very fast so good for mass production. Transformative is the process of melting or bending a material into a specific shape such as the panels on a car.
The 3D printing process
The first step to creating a 3D printed product is to create a 3D model, there are many pieces of software that can be used. The one used here is fusion 360 by AutoDesk.
Once the design has been finalised it needs to be translated into a file called an STL, this is a file that translates the software into a mesh of triangles that enables it to be sliced into layers.
The file is then loaded into a piece of software to 'slice' the object into layers that the printer can print. The software used is called Cura. In Cura the support material is added if needed and the print speed and temperature are selected and it is translated into a code called 'G-code'. This is essentially a code of instructions for the movement of the printhead and build plate.
Once this is complete it is time to start your print! We use two printers which are the Ultimaker 2+ and the Ultimaker 3, these both use the Fused Fabrication Modelling technology.
Once the print is complete, remove your print from the machine, this is different for each technology and some may require post processing to finish the part. For our printers the only post processing would be to remove the support material.
Types of 3D Printing
There are three main types of 3D printing used today, they are Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA) and Selective laser sintering/Melting (SLS/M). Each method has advantages and disadvantages so the best one to use will depend on, what materials you want to use, the speed, surface finish and how much you are willing to pay for it.
Currently the only technology used at Easy 3D Printing is FDM. Click the picture below to learn more about FDM.