I have a prototype that I would like to get a quote on to be 3D printed. I’m as green as it gets with this, so I am confused as to what I need to do, what program I need to try to submit a drawing with ect. I just saw your ad for the new availability of 3D mfg. and got excited but maybe I’m out of my league here, I don’t know. So that’s my question. What do I need to do to go forward.
Chas, Thank you for joining our community on our TechForum and thank you for your question!
You say you are new to this so I will break it down into easy to understand pieces of the processes.
Once you have an idea of what you want to make you will need to get it into the computer. This is done by creating a 3d model. Many different CAD or 3D modeling programs are available to use. Below I have listed a few examples of these but a google search will reveal there is not a shortage of options to try.
There are training tutorials and best practices available on Youtube for each of these programs. I HIGHLY recommend taking a look at them there.
Regardless of which program is chosen, a 3D model will need to be exported. While there are several files types supported, the most common file type will be STL but as time goes on the popularity of 3MF files will increase as it looks like this might be the new best file type.
A google search “3D printing file extension types” will reveal there are other types not mentioned here but we are going to be asking for STL files for use with our 3D printing service at this time.
Once we receive the STL file from you it is then provided to our printing service. They will load that file into a program called a slicer.
Examples of programs like this would be PrusaSlicer or Ultimaker Cura. This will be a simplified explanation of what the program does but will give you a basic understanding. When a model is brought into one of these programs they will place the entire model on 3d representation of the 3D printing bed. After the different printing preferences are selected it will then “slice” the model into very thin layers. Each of those layers when placed on top of each other represents the final object. A printing path will be be created for each layer from the bottom to the top. This information can then be exported as gcode
A simplified explanation is that it is the final instruction set that is loaded into a 3D printer. It tells the printer which direction to move and by how far, how hot to melt the plastic, and how fast to push the plastic filament into the printer. The printer simply follows those directions.
It is important to understand that process so you can think about that when you create your models. Models that print easier can be printed faster and more reliably, this reduces printing cost.
There is a side that will be flat against a print bed. The layers will be increasingly added to the top of your print. While the printer can create overhangs and bridge gaps, there are some best practices and limits to its capabilities.
The printer can make bridges in straight lines, but not very well with curves. This is because bridging is essentially printing without any support.
The printer can print over hanging angles but it is best to keep them less them less than °40 from your model
If you are going to design parts that go together you will need to think about the clearances between them. Here are my preferences and they work great with my printer. These values could be different for others with different printers and setups but it should set you up for a good place to start.
0.15, 0.20mm, 0.30mm - These are common layer heights. The smaller number is for smaller parts as they offer more detail while the larger numbers are for larger parts as they print faster but show more layer lines. 0.20mm is the most common. Depending on what layer height you would like to print your object, you may want to keep this in mind when deciding the sizes on smaller parts.
0.4mm - Nozzle width, This is the thickness of the line drawn by the printer. Each path will have this thickness, again keeping small parts in these multiples help to create better models.
0.2mm - Clearance between objects that should move smoothly and easily but without too much wiggle.
0.13mm - Clearance between objects that should use friction to stay together
Small parts with low surface area can be hard to keep stuck to the surface of the print bed. Creating a “plate” 1 layer thick at the bottom usually is easy to remove but can dramatically increase the surface area so that those small parts will stay put until the print is complete. Try to keep this on larger sides though, you do not want to try and dig out plastic in small corners if you can help it.
Most modern slicer programs have the ability to add support so that you can have complex overhangs and larger bridges but it should be noted that the surface between the support and the object can turn out okay, but it is never perfect. Its best to ovoid designing prints that need them if possible. Sometimes however, it is simply impossible to avoid.
I could go on and on truly. I hope this is enough to help you understand the process, what it takes, and will give you the knowledge you need to understand where you need to seek out more information. Youtube is your friend when it comes to 3d printing. There is more content than you could ever want regarding this topic.
I do hope this helps! If there is anything else you feel I need to explain in greater detail please ask below.
Thank you very much for the detailed response Aaron. It’s exactly what I need to get started.