Read our blog for all the latest in the world of 3D printing

How do you actually 3D print an object?

posted 07 January 2015 at 16:40:57

3D printers vary, but the typical 3D workflow is as follows:  

1. Create a 3D model in a special 3D design program, such as SketchUp, Blender, Autodesk 123D, Rhinoceros, SolidWorks, etc, and export it in STL format (STL is the acronym for Standard Tessellation Language – it's the software file format used to produce 3D models on 3D printers) to your 3D printer's Host software. Alternatively, if you don't have design skills, download any pre-designed STL model that takes your fancy from an Internet shop – many designers make their designs available for free.

2. In your 3D printer's Host software, arrange one or more STL models on a virtual print plate on your computer screen (to fit the size of your printer’s plate).

3. Slice the model(s) into thin slices and compute a path for the printer head to follow. This is done by slicing software, which automatically converts a model into G-Code – the language your 3D printer speaks. Some Host software, such as Repetier-Host, has built-in Slic3r software.

4. Check the G-Code for errors and printability (this is automatic in programs such as Repetier).  

5. Send the G-Code to your 3D printer.

6. Monitor your printer as it prints.  

7. Carefully remove your completed 3D printed models from your printer.

8. Some models may need some post-processing to achieve the desired result. This includes removing support struts, infills or unwanted blobs; filing and sanding rough edges; treating the model with chemicals or gluing individual model parts together; painting, varnishing or adding special finishes.

Pick up a copy of 3D Create & Print for more information and step-by-step tutorials.