The best way to understand 3D printing is to start from how it is done, which needs a 3D printer for the actual motion. In this article, we’ll learn about the basics of 3D printers, including the definition of a 3D printer, how it works and the main parts of a 3D printer.
A 3D printer is a type of machine that produces three-dimensional parts through an additive, layer-based process. Three-dimensional means that you can make parts that are more than a flat geometry, a 2D printer allows to cut out contours from flat materials such as paper, while what makes a 3D printer different is that it can not only make flat parts but also get details practically anywhere on a part and in any direction. The additive is relative to subtractive, both of them are the features of popular manufacturing methods, subtractive manufacturing starts with something larger than what you need and cuts away everything that is extra, like CNC milling. However, 3D printing is an additive process, there are two common ways of printing parts based on the types of 3D printers: filament or resin-based. For example, the filament printer melts is down and uses that to add on the material until get the desired object. To explain layers, in the 3D printing process, the model will be sliced into fine layers and then print on top of the other, from the bottom up. The printer only sees parts of a single, two-dimensional layer at a time. For a filament 3D printer, it’s getting all the paths along which it needs to lay down material in each layer, then it moves up a bit and starts working on a fresh set of moves for this new layer that it’s now printing on top of the old one. Resin machines are similar, but the common ones actually project light into the resin tank, which cures the resin in all the spots where you want to end up with a part and block out the light anywhere where there should be no cured material in the final part at all.
When it comes to the applications of 3D printing, the most common material used in 3D printing is plastic, but the use of other materials allows for the creation of some pretty amazing products beyond simple tools and toys. 3D printed food is becoming more and more popular. In the medical world, doctors test bio-materials for regenerative medicine, and even 3D print small body parts.
3D printing is a type of additive manufacturing process in which an object is created by adding material layer by layer. The 3D printer allows designers to create complex parts for machines, airplanes, and cars at a fraction of the cost and time of standard means like forging, molding and sculpting. Small consumer-friendly 3D printers are bringing additive manufacturing to home and business. How does a 3D printer work?
1. Create a blueprint of the object you want to print. You can use modeling software to create your own designs or find the downloadable file of the objects other users have modeled through online sites.
2. Once you have a finished design, it’s time to send it to the printer.
3. When the printer receives the data, it pulls the material through a tube, melts it and deposits it to the plate, where it instantly cools.
4. The printer will add one layer of the object at a time until you have a fully formed structure.
When working with a 3D printer, we should explore the construction and principle of a 3D printer, what are the main components of 3D printers and what are they used for? Take the FDM/FFF machine as an example, which stands for fused deposition modeling.
1. Controller board: also known as motherboard, works as the brain of the 3D printer, guides the motion components according to the digital instructions and ensures the smoothness of the fundamental operations.
2. Frame: used to hold the parts of your 3D printer in one place.
3. Print bed: where the filaments are deposited and the 3D parts are created.
4. Extruder: extrudes the filament and deposit it on the print bed, consists of a filament drive gear, a heat sink, a heater cartridge, a thermocouple, a cooling fan, and a nozzle.
5. Feeder system: Bowden feeder system and Direct feeder system are the most common ones.
6. User interface: set the machine parameters, and start the filament loading or unloading.
7. Connectivity: connect the mobile phone or laptop to your 3D printer through a WIFI connection, many machines also have SD card slots for file transfer.
8. PSU: Power Supply Unit, used to supply power for the running of a 3D printer.
9. Motion controller: receives instructions from the motherboard about the motion they must do and performs the actual motion, consists of belts, stepper motors, threaded rods and end stops.
10. Print materials: for FDM 3D printers, filaments are the main material, they can be heated to a certain temperature and then be deposited on the print bed.