3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the entire object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.
3D printable models may be created with a computer aided design (CAD) package or via a 3D scanner or via a plain digital camera and photogrammetry software.
The manual modeling process of preparing geometric data for 3D computer graphics is similar to plastic arts such as sculpting. 3D scanning is a process of analysing and collecting digital data on the shape and appearance of a real object. Based on this data, three-dimensional models of the scanned object can then be produced.
Regardless of the 3D modelling software used, the 3D model (often in .skp, .dae, .3ds or some other format) then needs to be converted to either a.STL or a .OBJ format, to allow the printing (a.k.a. "CAM") software to be able to read it.
Before printing a 3D model from an STL file, it must first be examined for "manifold errors", this step being called the "fixup". Especially STL's that have been produced from a model obtained through 3D scanning often have many manifold errors in them that need to be fixed. Examples of manifold errors are surfaces that do not connect, gaps in the models, ... Examples of software that can be used to fix these errors are netfabb and Meshmixer, or even Cura, or Slic3r.
Once that's done, the .STL file needs to be processed by a piece of software called a "slicer" which converts the model into a series of thin layers and produces a G-code file containing instructions tailored to a specific type of 3D printer (FDM printers). This G-code file can then be printed with 3D printing client software (which loads the G-code, and uses it to instruct the 3D printer during the 3D printing process). It should be noted here that often, the client software and the slicer are combined into one software program in practice. Several open source slicer programs exist, including Skeinforge, Slic3r, and Cura as well as closed source programs including Simplify3D and KISSlicer. Examples of 3D printing clients include Repetier-Host, ReplicatorG, Printrun/Pronterface, .
Though the printer-produced resolution is sufficient for many applications, printing a slightly oversized version of the desired object in standard resolution and then removing materialwith a higher-resolution subtractive process can achieve greater precision.
Some printable polymers allow the surface finish to be smoothed and improved using chemical vapour processes.
Some additive manufacturing techniques are capable of using multiple materials in the course of constructing parts. These techniques are able to print in multiple colors and color combinations simultaneously, and would not necessarily require painting.
Some printing techniques require internal supports to be built for overhanging features during construction. These supports must be mechanically removed or dissolved upon completion of the print.
All of the commercialized metal 3-D printers involve cutting the metal component off of the metal substrate after deposition. A new process for the GMAW 3-D printing allows for substrate surface modifications to remove aluminum components manually with a hammer.
This method uses a high powered laser to melt powder together. When set up carefully, this can create an almost perfectly uniform material of nearly injection mold quality. This make for very durable products. This is very interesting for musical instruments, as this allows us to create objects with the same materials as conventional instruments, but with the ease of printing instead of manual labor. The method is relatively simple, due to inherent supports it avoids additional step in between the 3d model and printing. The surface quality is fair, but not as detailed as other techniques.
Plastics, Elastomers, Metal, Ceramics, Glass