Whatever method a 3D printer employs, the whole procedure is almost the same. Scientists distinguish between 8 steps in the generic AM procedure:
First – the production of a 3D model with the help of computer-aided design software. The software is likely to give you some suggestion or even a clue concerning the structure of the ultimate object applying scientific facts about utilized materials. That will help to predict the behavior of the object under various conditions.
There are several free 3d modeling software that you may try to use building your first 3D models:
- Google SketchUp – this is a free 3D modeling software from Google. SketchUp tools let you create your models easy and even without having to figure out how.
- Blender – This is a free and open source 3D modeling software. It works on various operating systems such as Windows, Linux, Mac OS. The main goal to create a free, useful software product that allows to complete 3D creation for everyone either professional artists or beginners.
- 3DCrafter – this a free real-time modeling software that allows you to create complex 3d models using simple 3d primitives. Its various tools and intuitive drag-and-drop approach make the process of 3D modeling easy and fun. The standard version is free for downloading, but you may also buy Plus and Pro versions.
There are a lot of different 3d modeling software either commercial or free that could be used for designing 3D models. We will describe it in more details in our future articles.
Second – transformation to STL (standard tessellation language) – the sketch in CAD format is converted to STL, which is the format initiated especially for 3D systems in 1987 so as to be used by SLA – stereolithography apparatus. These STL files are sometimes used together with proprietary file kinds like ObjDF or ZPR.
Third – removing to AM machine and STL file operating. An STL file is copied to the computer operating a 3D printer. That’s the same as if you were to install a 2D printer.
Fourth – setting up the device. Each device has its own prerequisites for how to use it for each new print. That would mean adding or refilling various materials the printer will use. That also means adding a tray as a basis or adding some material to make up an interim water-dissoluble support.
Fifth – creating. The whole procedure is mainly automatic. The thickness of layers id about 0,1 mm each. However they can be thicker or thinner. Hanging on the size of a thing, machine and materials employed, the procedure might take several hours or even days. Don’t forget to check occasionally there are no errors.
Sixth – removal. Take the printed object (or perhaps several objects) out of the printer. Take them as carefully as possible to prevent injuries.
Seventh – post-processing. It may happen so that after an object is 3D printed it will require some post-processing – either it is removing the remaining powder or the water-soluble supports. Remember that sometimes materials may require some time to get solid. Be careful not to break the object.
Eighth – And finally the object is ready to be used!
Keep reading next article: 3D printing revolution