How Does 3D Printing Work: The Amazing World Of 3D Printing

by Tracy Jackson

Last Updated on May 27, 2022 by Tracy Jackson

how does 3d printing work

3D printing is one of the most impressive technologies to have emerged in recent years.

It can potentially change how we manufacture products, design objects, and even live our lives.

But what is 3D printing?

How does 3D printing work?

And why is it so unique when compared to traditional manufacturing methods?

In this blog post, we will explore the world of 3D printing and answer all these questions!

Disclaimer: If you buy something using the links in this article, I may receive a commission at no extra cost.

Know that I only promote stuff that I use and trust for my readers and the reputation of this site.

What Is 3D Printing? 

Have you ever wondered how those intricate three-dimensional objects are made?

Or how about those realistic-looking prototypes that engineers use to test products?

The process is called additive manufacturing, but most people know it as simply “three-dimensional printing.”

And yes, it is as impressive as it sounds.

How does 3D printing work?

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Three-dimensional printing is making a three-dimensional solid object from a digital file.

The 3D printer creates the object by adding materials layer by layer.

Creating 3D objects was accomplished using photochemical processes or by melting and fusing powders in the past.

Today, however, most three-dimensional printers use fused deposition modeling (FDM).

In FDM, the object to be printed is created by extruding melted plastic filament through a small nozzle.

The object is built up layer by layer from the bottom up.

As the printer extrudes each layer, the layer cools and hardens before adding the next layer. 

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

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The benefits of three-dimensional printing are numerous:

  1. It allows for the creation of objects with very intricate designs.
  2. It is much faster than traditional manufacturing methods.
  3. It is relatively inexpensive.

What Are The Additive Manufacturing Processes?

The additive manufacturing processes are the most commonly used to create three-dimensional objects.

These processes build objects by successively adding material until the object takes the desired shape.

The most common additive manufacturing process is selective laser sintering or SLS.

In SLS, a laser fuses small particles of plastic, metal, ceramic, or glass powders into a solid mass.

SLS is just one of many different additive manufacturing processes.

Others include stereolithography, digital light processing, and selective laser melting.

Each of these processes is suitable for various applications.

Additive manufacturing is an exciting and rapidly evolving technology with many potential applications.

For example, people may use it to create everything from medical implants to spacecraft parts in the future.

For now, though, it remains mainly in hobbyists and prototyping. 

What can you 3D print?

You can 3D print almost anything you want as long as it fits your printer’s build volume.

With a desktop filament-based printer, you can make just about anything.

3D print

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In addition to the things you can print with a regular desktop printer, there are now industrial-grade printers that can print metal, glass, and even food.

The possibilities are endless with this technology, and it’s only going to get better in the future.

Rapid Prototyping & Rapid Manufacturing

In the past, to create a physical prototype of a product, you would have to either carve it out of solid material or build it up layer by layer.

This process was time-consuming and expensive.

With rapid prototyping, you can create a three-dimensional model of your product quickly and cheaply using a printer.

In addition, rapid prototyping allows you to test the design of your product before going through the expensive and time-consuming process of manufacturing it.

The manufacturing process itself uses rapid prototyping. With rapid manufacturing, you can create finished products directly from a printer.

This process is beneficial for companies that need to produce small batches of custom products or for companies that need to build prototypes quickly.

Tools

Tools are many things you can print with a three-dimensional (or “additive”) printer.

With this type of printer, objects are built up layer by layer from a digital file.

3D Printed Tools

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The most common material used in additive printing is plastic, but some special printers even print using metal, glass, and human cells.

How Does 3D Printing Work?

The fascinating world of additive manufacturing or what is more commonly known as “three-dimensional printing.”

Three-dimensional printing is making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file.

The machine lays down successive layers of material in different shapes during the additive process.

The first step is to create a blueprint or a CAD design of the object you want to make.

Next, the 3D software slices the object into thin layers, then transfers it to the printer.

The next step is where the actual printing takes place.

Most commonly, home-based printers use Fused Deposition Modeling or Polyjetting.

Fused Deposition Modeling works by heating and extruding molten plastic filament, layer-by-layer, to create an object.

Polyjetting is slightly different because it makes objects by jetting layers of photopolymer onto a build tray.

The last step is post-processing, where you remove the supports and excess material.

Post-processing uses a solvent or water jet. After that, your object is ready!

3D Modeling Software

You can use a few different types of 3D sculpting software to create a model for your three-dimensional printing project.

The most common type is CAD or computer-aided design.

With this type of software, you can create a precise and accurate model of the object you want to print. 

sculptgl

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Another popular type of software is Blender, which is a bit more user-friendly and allows you to create organic shapes.

Once you have your model, the next step is to send it to the printer. Most printers will accept files in STL or OBJ format. 

These formats are specific to three-dimensional printing and ensure that your model prints correctly.

If you’re not sure how to get started with three-dimensional modeling or printing, plenty of online tutorials and resources are available. 

Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be able to create anything your imagination can think up!

Slicing the Model

To prepare a printing model, you need to slice it into thin layers.

Slicing is generally done with specialized software, taking a three-dimensional model and breaking it down into thousands of flat layers.

After slicing, it’s time to start printing.

The 3D Printing Process

The printing process itself is relatively simple.

First, you load the sliced model into the printer, and the printer lays down one layer of material at a time.

Once the printer has laid down a layer, the build platform moves slightly and prints another layer on top.

This process continues until the entire model has been built up layer by layer.

The type of material used for printing will depend on the specific printer.

Some common materials include plastics, metals, and ceramics.

However, some printers can use more unusual materials, such as food or human tissue.

3D Printing Materials

There are a variety of materials that you can use to create a three-dimensional object from its digital file.

Plastic is the most common material used, but you can use this technology to print metals, ceramics, and even human tissue. 

To create an object from these materials, you must first convert it into a digital file using scanning.

Once you scan the object, you can 3D print it using various methods, including stereolithography, selective laser sintering, and fused deposition modeling.

Each method uses different materials and has its advantages and disadvantages.

The most common material used in three-dimensional printing is plastic.

However, there are a variety of plastics that can be used, including acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polylactic acid (PLA), and polycarbonate (PC).

Each type of plastic has its advantages and disadvantages, so choosing the right kind of plastic for the job is essential. 

ABS and PLA Filament

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ABS, for example, is a solid and durable plastic that is perfect for the creation of toys and other objects that need to be able to withstand a lot of wear and tear.

PLA is a biodegradable plastic often used for food-related objects, such as cups and utensils.

PC is a clear plastic often used for objects that need to be transparent, such as eyeglasses and windows.

There are also a variety of metals used in three-dimensional printing, including aluminum, brass, bronze, and steel.

3D Printing Techniques

There are a few popular methods of creating objects with a three-dimensional printer.

Stereolithography (SLA) Technology

The most common method is called stereolithography, or SLA.

This process creates an object by curing a photosensitive resin with an ultraviolet laser beam.

This process can make exact and detailed objects.

SLA

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SLA is the most common technology used in industrial and high-end consumer printers.

It is also the oldest form of additive manufacturing, invented in the 1980s.

How does SLA work?

The basic idea behind stereolithography is to use a laser to draw a cross-sectional image of an object in a vat of liquid photopolymer.

The laser beam causes the photopolymer to solidify and create a cross-sectional layer of the object.

The process is repeated, with each new layer bonding to the previous one until you build the entire object.

This process can create particular and complex objects.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) (also known as Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF))

FDM works by melting plastic filaments and extruding them layer by layer (in horizontal and vertical directions) to build a three-dimensional (33D) object.

Fused deposition modelling (FDM) Printing system. 

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The advantage of FDM is that it can use multiple materials and colors simultaneously, which allows for greater design freedom.

Additionally, FDM is relatively fast and inexpensive compared to other additive manufacturing technologies.

Manufacturers often use FDM for prototyping and low-volume production because of its flexibility and affordability.

However, you can also use FDM parts in high-strength aerospace and medical implant applications.

Digital Light Processing (DLP)

DLP is a type of stereolithography that uses a digital projector to cure (harden) photopolymer resin.

The projector projects an image of the object layer by layer onto the build platform.

The build platform lowers as each layer fixes, and the printer deposits a new resin layer on top.

Digital Light Processing (DLP) printer.

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DLP printers are some of the fastest stereolithography (SLA) printers on the market, with print speeds up to 100 times faster than traditional SLA printers.

This technology is also more affordable than other SLA printers, making it an excellent option for hobbyists and small businesses.

Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP)

CLIP is a unique new technology that is quickly revolutionizing the world of manufacturing. CLIP uses light and oxygen to cure resin into a solid object.

This process is much faster than traditional manufacturing methods, and it produces objects with far greater accuracy.

So how does CLIP work? CLIP uses Digital Light Synthesis technology.

Essentially, it uses light to control the solidification of resin.

The machine projects UV light through an oxygen-permeable window into a vat of liquid resin.

As the light hits the resin, it begins to solidify.

Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP)

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The key to CLIP is the oxygen-permeable window.

This window allows oxygen to flow into the vat of resin, which prevents the resin from solidifying too quickly.

The result is a much faster solidification process that produces objects with far greater accuracy than traditional methods.

Material Jetting

Material Jetting is a process that works by jetting droplets of a liquid material onto a build platform.

The material is then cured with UV light, layer by layer until the model is complete.

One of the benefits of Material Jetting is that it can print in multiple colors and materials simultaneously.

This benefit makes it perfect for creating prototypes or printing products in various colors.

Material jetting

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Another benefit of Material Jetting is that it can print very detailed models.

This benefit allows you to create parts with very intricate designs, such as medical implants or jewelry.

Material Jetting can help to create high-quality prototypes or parts with complex designs.

Binder Jetting

Binder jetting

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Binder Jetting is an additive manufacturing technology used to create parts from powder materials.

The process works by selectively depositing a binding agent onto powder layers, bonding the powder particles together to form a solid object.

Binder Jetting is well suited for producing large, complex geometries, and you can use various metals, plastics, and ceramics.

Binder Jetting is one of the most popular additive manufacturing technologies due to its versatility and ability to produce high-quality parts.

Binder Jetting technology is often used in conjunction with other additive manufacturing processes, such as Stereolithography (SLA) or Digital Light Processing (DLP), to create even more complex parts.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

SLS is an additive manufacturing technology used to create prototypes and functional parts from powder materials.

The laser selectively fuses powdered material based on the cross-sections generated from a three-dimensional (CAD) model, one layer at a time.

The machine then applies new powder to the build platform before scanning each new layer.

The SLS process continues until the build is complete.

selective laser sintering (SLS)

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SLS is well suited for manufacturing complex geometries or parts with interior features and cavities.

You can also use it to produce large-scale parts quickly and efficiently.

The main advantage of SLS over other additive manufacturing technologies is that it can use a broader range of materials, including metals, plastics, glass, and ceramics.

Multi-Jet Fusion (MJF)

MJF is a type of additive manufacturing technology used for producing functional parts and prototypes from a range of plastics.

MJF uses an array of small nozzles to deposit droplets of material, which are then fused using heat and pressure.

Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)

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MJF is ideal for creating parts with complex geometries or multiple colors, as you can switch the print head between different materials mid-print.

In addition, MJF is one of the fastest additive manufacturing technologies, with print speeds up to 100 times faster than traditional stereolithography (SLA).

Multi-Jet Fusion is a quick and easy way to produce high-quality prototypes or parts. Get in touch with a reputable supplier to find out more.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)

DMLS is the process of using a high-powered laser to heat and melt the metal powder.

The laser selectively fuses the metal powder, layer by layer, to create a three-dimensional object.

DMLS is one of the most popular additive manufacturing methods for metals.

It can help you create complex shapes that would be difficult or impossible to make with traditional machining methods.

DMLS

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DMLS is often used to create prototypes or small batches of parts because it is a relatively quick and inexpensive process.

However, DMLS can also be used to produce functional metal parts for end-use applications.

For example, DMLS is commonly used to create medical implants and aerospace components.

Sheet Lamination

Sheet Lamination is a process whereby a machine glues layers of material together to create a three-dimensional object.

In this process, sheets of material are first cut to size and then laid on top of each other.

The machine then bonds together these sheets are then bonded together using adhesives, pressure, or heat.

Sheet lamination

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This method is to create prototypes or models as it is a quick and easy way to produce three-dimensional objects.

However, it is also possible to create functional parts and products.

One advantage of sheet lamination is that it allows for a wide variety of materials, including flexible and rigid materials.

Additionally, you can make sheets from different thicknesses, which gives designers greater control over the final product.

Sheet Lamination is relatively simple to set up and use.

This simplicity makes it an ideal choice for those new to three-dimensional printing.

Directed Energy Deposition

(DED) helps you build three-dimensional metal parts.

In DED, a focused energy beam (usually a laser or an electron beam) melts and deposits material onto a substrate, layer by layer.

DED is well suited for creating complex geometries and for repairing damaged parts.

In addition, you can use the technology to build components from various metals, including titanium, aluminum, stainless steel, and nickel-based alloys.

DED

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DED systems are typically large and expensive, making them most suitable for industrial applications.

However, as the technology develops, smaller and more affordable DED systems become available, making this type of additive manufacturing technology more accessible to small businesses and hobbyists.

Powder Bed Fusion

Powder Bed Fusion is an additive manufacturing technology used to create digital files.

It starts with a layer of powder spread over the build platform. A laser then melts the powder in some areas.

Finally, the melted powder forms a solid layer that bonds with the powder below it. 

Powder Bed Fusion

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Powder Bed Fusion is an excellent option for creating objects with intricate designs or fine details.

You can also use this technology to create large objects.

In addition, powder Bed Fusion is a popular choice for prototyping and manufacturing applications.

What are the benefits of Powder Bed Fusion?

There are many benefits of Powder Bed Fusion, including:

-The ability to create objects with intricate designs or fine details.

-The ability to create large objects.

-Powder Bed Fusion is a popular choice for prototyping and manufacturing applications.

What are the disadvantages of Powder Bed Fusion?

-Powder Bed Fusion can be expensive.

-The build platform must be heated to a high temperature, which can be dangerous.

Powder Bed Fusion is a relatively new technology, so few powder bed fusion machines are available.

There are two types of Powder Bed Fusion:

-Selective Laser Melting (SLM)

-Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)

Selective Laser Melting is the most common type of Powder Bed Fusion.

In this process, a high-power laser melts the powder.

The melted powder forms a solid layer that bonds with the powder below it.

How Much Do 3D Printers Cost?

Most home-use printers are in the $200-$500 range, while industrial machines can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

But regardless of the price tag, all printers work using the same basic principles.

3D Printing Applications

Automotive

Industries use additive manufacturing to create prototypes and engine parts for automobiles.

With the ability to produce complex shapes quickly and efficiently, automotive companies can explore more design options and bring innovative products to market faster than ever before.

Medical

Additive manufacturing plays a significant role in healthcare, from implants and prosthetics to surgical instruments and custom-made drugs.

By enabling the production of personalized medical devices and treatments, this technology is transforming the way we care for patients.

Consumer Products

Additive manufacturing helps create an ever-growing range of consumer products, from toys and gadgets to clothes and footwear.

In addition, with the ability to produce customized goods on demand, this technology gives consumers more choice.

Aerospace

The aerospace industry uses additive manufacturing to create lighter and more robust aircraft parts.

By enabling the production of complex shapes with minimal material waste, this technology is helping to reduce the cost and environmental impact of aircraft manufacturing.

As you can see, there are many applications for additive manufacturing.

This versatile technology revolutionizes industries worldwide and changes how we live and work.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we can say that the technology of additive manufacturing or three-dimensional printing is constantly evolving.

3D printers help create prototypes and small-scale production runs of customized products.

With the recent advances in materials science and engineering, there is now a more comprehensive range of applications for this technology.

These include medical implants, eyeglasses, and even food.

As the technology develops, we will likely see even more impressive applications for this incredible technology.

Thank you for reading!

We hope you have a better understanding of how does three-dimensional printing work.

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