Build new worlds: all you need to know about 3D printing
3D printing is all about transformation: turning a digital 3D model into a physical object.
There are numerous technologies used in 3D printing. The majority of 3D printers will use FDM or FFF as their technology within a home or an office setting. As these technologies become cheaper and easier to implement within a machine, we will explore what is involved.
How does a 3D printer work?
Well, the best way to really understand how 3D printing works is to understand the various technologies involved. Before we learn these individual technologies, we should understand the basic principles of transferring a 3D model on a computer screen to a 3D printer.
The importance of G-code
Computers are not like humans; they can't just look at a 3D model and simply tell the 3D printer to print it. Lots of computer code is involved.
For example: G-code is a numerical control computer language which is used mainly for computer aided manufacturing, both subtractive and additive manufacturing. Simply put, it’s a language that tells a machine how to move.
Without G-code there would be no way for the computer to communicate where to deposit, cure or sinter a material during the fabrication process. Programs such as Slic3r are required in order to convert 3D model files into G-code.
Once the G-code is created it will be sent to the 3D printer, and provide a blueprint about what its next several thousand moves will consist of. These steps all add up to the complete printing process of a physical object.
There may be other computer languages, but for now, G-code is the most important and dominant one for 3D printing.
Utilizing FDM Technology
Now let's take a look at one of the most popular technologies used in 3D printing: FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling), also referred to FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication ).
This 3D printing technology is quite simple. A thermoplastic such as PLA or ABS is fed into an extruder and through a hot end. The hot end then melts the plastic, and turn it into a gooey liquid.
The printer acquires its instructions from the computer via G-code and deposits the molten plastic layer by layer until an entire object is printed. The plastic melts rather rapidly, providing a solid surface for each additional layer's deposition. A complete 3D model is then fabricated.
The future of 3D printing
At the beginning, 3D printing was primarily a technology used for the purpose of prototyping, but this is changing very fast. Numerous manufacturers are now producing end-use components and entire products via additive manufacturing.
From aerospace industry, to medical modeling and implantation, to art and education, to prototyping of all kinds, 3D printing is being used by virtually every major industry on the planet in one way or another.
There’s never been a better time to join one of the most dynamic and exciting technology areas.
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