Have you been curious on the process of 3D printing (from getting 3D model to getting the final product)?
Do you know how close you are to be able to get involved in 3D printing?
In this article, we will briefly cover the 3D printing process to let you know how close you are to 3D printing! In fact, if you wish to use 3D printing service, you will only need to go through step 1 mentioned in this article to get involved in 3D printing.
Interested? Great, Read on.
3D Printing Process
There are three processes in 3D printing.
1. Obtaining STL file of a 3D model
2. Slice (generate g-codes) the 3D model in slicer software
3. Send g-codes to 3D printer to print the model
These process applies to most 3D printing technologies where some will require some extra steps in between. Meanwhile, we will only brief on these three steps.
Step 1: Obtain STL File of a 3D Model
First of all, let us talk about obtaining the 3D model. STL file is one of the file format of 3D model which the slicer software could understand. Therefore, it is the main component of the 3D printing process since the 3D printer will print based on the 3D model.
In order to obtain STL file of the 3D model, you need a 3D model, which can be obtained by,
1. Designing in Computer Aided Design (CAD) software
2. 3D scanning existing object
3. Or just take it from existing websites where the community share their STL files for free.
In this article, we will only dive deep into option 3. You can check out our tutorial on a CAD software suitable for beginners here.
Websites for Free STL Files
If you are interested in option 3 and eager to get some free STL files now, below are some examples of websites with free STL files (Take note that for some files may require you to pay before you are allowed to download, but majority of the files are free).
There are more websites than those listed below which you can get free STL files, we are just providing a few recommendations for you to get started.
Getting files from these websites are really simple, and you do not even need to create an account to get them. We will show you the procedures using YouMagine, but other websites are pretty much the same procedures.
First of all, go to the website using the link provided (we are using YouMagine as example).
Then under the search button (top left corner), type whatever 3D models you want to search for and click Enter. (We shall use cable organizer as example.)
After that, the search results will then appear and click on whichever you wish to download. We shall choose “Cordie Cable Roll” by magicxman for this example.
After clicking the “Cordie Cable Roll”, you will then be brought to a page where all the details of the 3D model can be found, and all you have to do now is click download.
You will then get a zip folder where all the necessary files are inside.
For some websites, you can also find some featured or popular prints display at the homepage if you are not sure what to search for.
At this stage, you are already able to use a 3D printing service to 3D print your desired 3D model. If you are interested in 3D printing service, we are providing our own 3D printing service. You may check our more information about our 3D printing service here.
Simple right? Great, let us move on to the next step.
Step 2: Slice 3D Model in Slicer Software
After getting the STL file of the 3D model, it is time to move the next step, importing the 3D model to slicer software.
Slicer software is a type of software which would slice your model into layer, and create tool paths for the printing process.
It is at this stage where the g-code (a series of commands which the 3D printer can understand) is generated. In other words, the slicer software converts your 3D model into a language that a 3D printer can understand.
In addition, it is also at this stage where the settings required for 3D printing are properly tuned to ensure the finished print comes out nice and clean.
If you are thinking that slicer software are pricey, not at all. This is because the 3D printing community is a great community which supports open source hardware and software to ensure more people can get the chance use a 3D printer with very little obstacle.
And yes, there are free slicer software out there for you to use. The two most common free slicer software are,
Both of these slicer software are free and great to use. However, Cura seems to be adopted by most 3D printer manufacturers as their default slicer software.
We will only dive deep into slicer software in future articles, meanwhile let us move to the final step.
Step 3: Send G-Codes to 3D Printer to Print the Model
Once you have generated the g-codes, it is time to put it into your 3D printer. There are several ways to send the g-codes into the 3D printer.
The most common method is by saving the g-codes file into SD cards or micro SD cards which usually comes with the 3D printer. You can then insert the SD/micro SD card into the 3D printer and allow the printer to run the g-codes in standalone mode.
You can also connect the USB cable provided to the 3D printer and run the g-code directly through the USB cable. (But beware, your laptop/PC must not sleep during the printing process.)
If you have a Raspberry Pi, you can even print using wireless connection through Octoprint.
Once the g-code has been sent to the 3D printer, it will then start printing your parts based on the g-code.
There you have it, a brief overview of the entire 3D printing process.
Just a recap, 3D printing consist mainly of these three processes,
1. Obtain STL Files
2. Slice the file in Slicer Software
3. Send the generated g-code to 3D printer
Although there are more considerations for each steps, we wish to keep it simple by providing just the overview of the entire process.
This is because we want you to know that 3D printing is actually within your reach, and do not need a lot of technical skills.
We are looking forward to provide in-depth content on obtaining STL files and the slicing process in future articles, so that we can guide you slowly into the world of 3D printing.
Did we miss out any process? Let us know in the comments below.
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