ABOUT 3D PRINTERS
3D printers create three dimensional physical objects from digital design files.
While traditional manufacturing might involve carving away unwanted material to create a finished object or maybe pouring molten material into a mould and letting it set into the right shape, 3D printing builds an object from the ground up. It’s a form of additive manufacturing where objects are made by adding material, bit by bit and layer by layer until the ‘print’ is completed.
The different methods generally referred to as 3D printing are fused deposition modelling (FDM), stereolithography (SLA) and selective laser sintering (SLS). There are other methods, however generally when referring to 3D printing you will be talking about a machine that employs one of those three methods. Consumer desktop printers, such as the Ultimaker 3D printers, generally use FDM, which is where filament (including PLA or ABS) is pushed through an extruder head to make objects layer by layer.
The filament passes through this tube to the extruder head
These metal bars let the various moving parts of the printer move, along the X, Y and Z axes. Usually the extruder head will move in two directions (X and Y axes) and the print bed will move up and down on the Z axes.
This is where the filament is melted and then pushed out (or extruded) onto the print bed. The part of the extruder head where the plastic comes out is known as the hot end because it gets very hot. A temperature gauge will make sure that the printer is operating at the right temperature.
This is where objects are printed, they can be heated (like the Ultimaker 2). The print bed should be calibrated every so often to ensure that it’s perfectly level.
SD Card Reader
You can save your design as a G-code onto an SD card using the 3D printing software, then you can print directly from the SD card.
Not all 3D printers have this but the ones that do will be able to display information about the printer, like its temperature, or how long it will take to complete.
You can use this control dial to scroll through menus, change settings or print from an SD card, for example.
CHOOSING THE MATERIAL
Typical desktop 3D printers can usually print in either PLA or ABS filament. PLA is more commonly used as it comes in a wider range of colours and does not require any ventilation in the room. Whereas ABS produces a strong smell that can be toxic so you need to be in a well ventilated room, ABS is however better at withstanding high impacts and can be used in wet locations. Click here to find out all the differences between PLA and ABS filament.