3D Printing

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process through which solid objects can be built from digital files. This can be achieved with using various 3D printing techniques and most of these techniques involve the creation of an object by laying down thin layers successively.

Step 1: CAD File Development

First, a 3D model of the object is created using a CAD (Computer Aided Design) software.

We will be using the wrench design we created on Fusion 360.

Wrench Model on Fusion 360

Step 2: Conversion to STL

Once the CAD file is developed, the next thing to consider is converting it into specific file formats based on the technology of printing being employed by that particular 3D printer. For instance, the CAD file has to be converted into a STL (standard tessellation language) if the printer is based on the stereolithography technique to tessellate the 3D shape and slice it into digital layers.

In our example, we will be saving our file in a STL format.

Saving Model as STL File

Step 3: STL File Manipulation

Now that the STL format file is ready, the orientation and size of the object to be printed can be set. This could be done using a 3D printing software such as MakerBot Print or Ultimaker Cura.

We will be using Ultimaker Cura software for our model.

We resized our 3D model to speed up the printing process.

Model on Ultimaker Cura


Step 4: Converting STL File to G-code

 The 3D model is then converted into machine language (G-code) through a process called “slicing” to prepare for print. Slicing is the process of turning your 3D model into a toolpath for the 3D printer by cutting it into thin horizontal layers.

Finally, you can save the G-code to an SD card.


Save to File

Step 5: Preparing the Printer

Now that the digital file is ready, make sure the 3D printer is ready as well by ensuring the polymers, binders and other material which are necessary to perform a print operation are properly installed.

Then insert the SD card into the SD card slot in printer and select the file to be printed.

We will be using Original Prusa i3 Mk2 as our 3D printer.

Original Prusa i3 MK2

Step 6: Building Process

The printer builds the model by depositing the material layer by layer. This process is mostly automatic. Depending on the object's size, the machine and the materials used, the process could take hours or even days to complete. Simply all that one has to do is wait and perform random checks to make sure there are no errors. 

Since our model was scaled to a very small size, the process took less than half an hour.

Printing 3D Part

Step 7: Post Processing

Once the printing process is done and the object is ready, make sure you handle it carefully. Some post processing such brushing off any remaining powder or bathing the printed object to remove water-soluble supports might be required.

And that’s it! The 3D printed object is now all ready!

Final Part