Here we will talk about how to get started in 3D printing
the main brands, the files involved stl etc…concepts like plastic/metal
types of plastic advanced ideas and skill,
3D printing in 2021 has suddenly in the last year become like regular ink jet printing was since the price to get one can be as low as a few hundred dollars!
We will describe some of the differences in the 3 price points shortly.
But first what is 3d printing and why would you want to do it?
Its basically a way to design objects in a computer design program and then print them out usually layer by layer on a 3d printing machine.
Most of us first heard about the technology about 10 years ago when scientists said that they were able to print tiny human tissue or heart valves using million dollar equipment.
Now, one could print similar plastic heart valves with a free program like Blender and a used $50 MakerBot 3d printer!
The first 3d printer was formally invented by Charles Hull in 1988 and many improvements have been made since with over a dozen name brands to choose from.
Yes you can print a 3d object like an apple in metal, plastic or almost any material..the printers under $2,000 will generally only do a form of plastic.
If you were to watch a person create something it would be in these stages
- input some pre done 3d STL file or draw some new 3d object in a program like Blender and output the files as “STL” file Use another program like Replicator G to slice up this file into thin layers. This file is then sent to the 3d printer to spit out each layer
- the 3d printer starts to buzz and go back and forth melting a roll of plastic that it has at the back and slowly forming the first layer of the object and then another and another until it is done in maybe !0 minutes or a few hours.
- you let it cool off and snap off the excess pieces and you are done .
Okay lets explain the technology a bit more.
3D printers use a process called additive layer manufaccturing.
You buy rolls of one of the special types of plastic and when the machine stars it heats it up thru the part of the machine called the extruder. The melted blob is put onto a metal plate and the 3d printer head moves around laying down layer after layer of plastic until the object is finished.
There is a lot of learning and skill to get it totally right but anyone can output a simple blob of plastic to simply see how the machine works.
Yes these machines are burning plastic and maybe you culd get sick or die if you did not have ventilation or if you tried to eat the hot plastic…we are not here to judge:)
You can use various design programs if you can’t simply find an already completed design ojn a site like Thingiverse.com
Most large city libraries now have 3d printers and advanced technology like this for the public to use when the libraries are open to the public.
Otherwise most cities have informal groups of people who organize a Makerspace where they volnteer and raise funds to share equipment and skills.