3D printing, a word that has been widely heard in recent 5 years, was invented quite long ago in 1986. After years of development, you may heard some fabrication processes such as Stereolithography(SLA), Fused Deposition Modeling(FDM), Fused Filament Fabrication(FFF), Selective Laser Sintering(SLS) and others. Most of them depend on layer by layer fabrication. That's why 3D printing is also called "additive manufacturing" to describe the technologies that build 3D objects by adding layer by layer of printing materials.
With all these different 3D printing technologies and materials you can print with, but all are based on the same principle: a digital model is turned into a solid three dimensional physical object by adding material layer by layer.
In this article you will learn more about 3D printing including how 3D printing works, FDM/FFF technology and what materials you can use.
How does 3D printing Work
A inkjet printer uses 2 dimensions, when you finish your document, the computer translates the document into coordinates for the inkjet printer. A moving head prints the letters on paper on one fixed axis when motors drive wheels which advances the paper on the other axis.
This is the same principle for 3D printer, to use three axes, X, Y, and Z axes to physically print objects. Almost all 3D printer is built based on the principle that its 3 axes are linear. The 3 axes are at right angles to each other and they don't rotate but move in straight lines. To print an object, it starts with the creation of a 3D design model in your computer. This 3D model file is sliced into thin layers which is sent to the 3D printer.
From here on, the printing process varies by technology, we will only discuss FDM/FFF technology here.
Fused Deposition Modeling(FDM) / Fused Filament Fabrication(FFF)
Most of desktop 3D printers use FDM/FFF 3D printing technology because the way it works is rather simple. Thermoplastics applied on FDM/FFF 3D printers are called filament, the line of filament is guided from a reel attached to the 3D printer to a heated nozzle inside of the 3D printer that melts the material. Once material in a melted state, it can be extruded on a specific path created by the software on the computer. Then, the printer gets its instructions from the computer via G-code and adds the 3D printer filament layer by layer, the material instantly cools and solidifies to complete the printing object.
FDM/FFF is the most common 3D printing technology due to its quick and low cost of prototyping. FDM/FFF offers a wide variety of plastic-based and colorful materials such as PLA, ABS, PETG and even more exotic material blends like carbon or wood, etc. More an more users use FMD 3D printing to manufacture functional end products with embedded electronics and mechanical parts like drones. Start your own printing parts now, if you need any support, you are welcome to contact us.
3D Printing Materials
We will give you a brief introduction on the common 3D printing materials here, you can find out more details regarding filament materials in another article.
The most popular 3D printing materials are PLA and ABS filament, but to satisfy different printing demands, there are also other 3D printing materials such as Carbon Fiber, PETG, TPU/TPE, Wood, PP and HIPS, etc.
• PLA filament is best used for cosmetic prints, prototypes, and desk toys applications
• PLA filament is stiff but brittle
• Best for beginners due to ease of printing.
• Strong and ductile material which withstands heat and wear.
• ABS filament is best used for interlocking printing parts such as gears, parts exposed to the sunlight like a car cup holder or prototyping.
• PETG filament is durable and flexible
• PETG filament is impact and heat resistant
• Commonly used for mechanical parts
• PP filament is best used for living hinges, medical devices and chemistry equipment.
• PP filament is flexible too.
• TPU printing parts are rubber, elastic and impact resistant
• Best used for belts, caps, phone cases, bumpers, etc.
• Wood filament feels and looks like actual wood
• Best used to print wooden parts and sculptures.
Carbon Fiber PLA Filament
• Carbon fiber PLA filament is strong material with wear resistance and heat tolerance.
• Commonly used for drone bodies, propellers and RC car frames.
• HIPS filament dissolves away in limonene, it is a rigid and support material
• Best used for models with internal supports, especially a good support material for ABS due to similar printing temperature.
Glow in the Dark Filament
• Commonly used for light switch covers, decorations and ceiling starts.