3D printing isn’t just for highly specialized engineers anymore. Many local libraries now boast 3D printers available for use by the general public. Even young children wake up on Christmas to find 3D printers under their trees. As these printers become more and more accessible, it’s important to understand how they work and why you might want one. With that in mind, here are 5 important 3D printing concepts everyone should know.
Where to Find and Make Designs
One of the most intimidating things for people just starting to 3D print is how to build a workable design. But don’t worry, we have you covered. Thingiverse is an online network of creators who share their 3D print designs, and it’s perfect for beginners. Many designs are available to download and can be customized in a variety of editing programs. If you want to build your own design, programs like Cura are user-friendly and reliable.
While this may seem obvious, it’s so important to never attempt a design that is bigger than the given space of your particular printer. Because the printer creates your design by melting the material and building the object layer by layer, using a design that’s not compatible with your printer can cause the material to clog. If the material clogs, it can get intertwined with the wires and cause your 3D printer to malfunction. Always make sure the design is compatible with your printer.
Infill refers to the interiors parts of your print that no one will see once the object is complete. Basically, it’s what holds the design up. Depending on the software you use to make your print, you can adjust the infill to fit the needs of your design. Too much infill can make the design look chunky and eat up a lot of material. However, too little infill can cause your design to collapse. It’s important to experiment with infill–because it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Overhang is when part of your design stems from the base of your print and “hangs” in the air without any additional support. Your model shouldn’t have too many overhangs or gravity will take over and your print may break. Any overhang less than 45 degrees will require supports, while anything over 45 degrees should be stable. However, there’s no guarantee, and the amount of infill you use can cause your overhang to fail regardless of the slope. Oftentimes you can print a model with supports, and then take the supports off once the design is finished and cooled off. Regardless, the fun of 3D printing is experimenting to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
XYZ are the three different axes that are used by the 3D printer to build your model. You don’t need super in-depth knowledge of how this works. The most important thing to understand is the XY and Z axes is how your machine plots the points in space to build a physical object from a digital design. XY and Z then refers to the width, height and depth respectively. This is yet another component of 3D printing that you can experiment with to find the perfect specifications for your unique design.
3D printing can seem overwhelming at first. However, it doesn’t have to be an overly complex process, and just knowing the basics can lead you to create amazing, useful prints. There are also a variety of different machines that can complete different types of projects. The company Konica Minolta offers many different types of 3D printers with tons of different functions and uses. You can figure out what you want out of a 3D printer and explore the site to see which option best suits your needs. Regardless of what you use your 3D printer for, you’ll be amazed at how easily you can turn your imagination into reality.