By Conrad ekeke
It’s common knowledge that the easiest way to produce a digital model is with a Computer-Aided Design – CAD programs like AutoCAD, SketchUp, Photoshop, and Blender. Therefore, it is necessary to create a blueprint/three-dimensional (3D), a digital file of the model we want to print. Nonetheless, we have plenty of both professional and novice-capable software to produce such printable models. One of the big questions that pop up in our minds is the importance of 3D printing.
Besides stating how 3D printing works, this article will outline its importance, as well as its preference compared to other methods of printing.
How Does 3D Printing Work?
1. Creating 3D Files
3D printers today have the capacity of building everything from Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), used by healthcare worldwide in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, to home designs. Before printing in 3D, it’s essential to understand that, we can create such models through a layering method, otherwise called Additive Manufacturing.
3D printing makes use of objects that show similarity in shape, size, texture, and colour to actual objects. What this means is that to reproduce an actual structure in 3D printable format, we must create the object by adding material to it layer by layer. More importantly, the additive manufacturing method makes use of materials like molten plastic, biomaterial, and powder.
Alternatively, we can produce 3D files through 3D scanning, which is closely related to 3D printing by reproducing a replica of an actual object. For some who get impatient with creating 3D models for their projects, a much easier way would be to download the file you intend to print. You can visit CrabCad, Shapeways, MyMinifactory, and other related websites to download or purchase readily available models.
2. 3D Printers
3D printers are an integral part of the additive manufacturing process, even though they look similar to the traditional inkjet printer. no3D printers differ from inkjet printers in their capacity to combine top-of-the-line software, plastic, or powdered materials, including precision tools, to create 3D objects from start to finish.
Once your 3D design is complete, you will need to convert it into an appropriate file format ready for printing. The most ancient and widely used format is StereoLithography (STL). In modern times, STL would stand for Standard Triangle Language and Standard Tessellation Language. However, STL remains a usable extension for such files.
Besides.STL, formats like.OBJ and .3MF exist, even though they don’t contain colour information. However, below is a list of file formats that would print your 3D design in colour format.
Nevertheless, these formats are not 3D printable by default. They have to meet certain requirements for water-tightness, minimum wall thickness, maximum polygon count, and many more. If they’re designed with 3D printing in mind, all the better.
Slicing involves translating 3D files into printable instructions for 3D printers to execute and would need another software. It involves dividing the 3D model into thousands of horizontal layers with step-by-step instructions for the printer. This process leads directly to the creation of a new file format called the G-Code that has .gcode. extension.
In summary, G-Code is a numerical code programming language used in Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM), to regulate automated machine tools like 3D printers and Computer Numerical Controls (CNCs).
Using a 3D printing service would make slicing a lot easier for you. You only need to upload the right 3D file format and wait for the printing to launch.
The printing machine demands accurate adjustments to produce the desired 3D print. Most 3D printers will automatically follow the G-Code instructions, as long as there are no software errors. Otherwise, maintenance and monitoring will ensure the desired result.
Why is 3D printing is Important?
1. The Motherboard
The motherboard is the 3D printer’s control board. We can also look at it as the brain of the printer since it controls hardware, such as stepper motors, drivers, heaters, and thermistors by using the G-Code through firmware. An alternative option is to use PandaPi, or Pi4, to run a 3D printer with a different board. However, most users are more accustomed to the traditional G-Code printing format.
However, Raspberry Pis, such as Pi4, use small, inexpensive Single-board Computers (SBC) with multiple functions compared to 3D printer control boards. You would also love to know more about how Pi4 works in regards to 3D printing, which you can find in our article titled, How Pi4 Works.
The best way to impress a client would be to present a realistic view of whatever projects they want you to conceive, right? In other words, by producing an actual reality from thought to paper, we must ensure maximum resemblance that would ease the doability of a project. 3D printing is one of the most solicited ways to achieve such results in our day-to-day lives.
Think of the CNC milling machine. Whether you work with them, you’ll find their use in creating 3D objects fascinating, as they have proven to reproduce every human imagination. After creating a graphic model of an object we want to print, we robustly become aware of the need for such technology, as 3D printing.
It’s often said that a picture speaks a thousand words. You would agree that a 3D model of a house design that doesn’t exist physically will precipitate a client to want to build it in reality. This is the power of words spoken in pictures, and 3D printing is that technology that has put thought and words together in such a beautiful frame.
As technology gradually shifts our ability to carry out certain tasks, we automatically tend to rely on its capacity to perform better. We need these technologies now more than ever before, which is why, most educational systems and institutions include them, even though not in their entirety. The world is moving in that direction.
The popularity of modern technology makes it easier for most users to navigate through, and obtain expected results. Below is a table of some of the most common software used in creating 3D files that can be printable.
3D single colour rendering format.
Used on most desktops
AMF (Additive Manufacturing File Format)
It’s a .xml based open standard for 3D printing that can support multiple colours.
Used on most computer systems.
VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language).
It’s new and has the capacity of handling printers with more than one extruder. It can also support multiple colours.
Used on modern computers.
It’s a file format that can contain detailed instructions for every layer of a 3D file.
Used on modern computers.
In addition to producing 3D virtual models for printing, 3D printing also has an advantage over the traditional manufacturing processes, like injection moulding, or CNC milling.
FAQ on 3D Printing
1. Is RPi4 used in 3D printing?
Yes, Raspberry Pis can be integrated with certain 3D printers by adding an extra board that runs software, like OctoPrint that can remotely control and monitor your printer. As mentioned above, we have a full article on RPi4 and its uses.
2. How much benefit can one draw from 3D printing?
3D printing is an additive process, and thus, would build up materials layer-by-layer rather than subtracting the materials to build the product.
3. Are there any websites with 3D printing software?
Yes, there are.