What’s the 3D Printing and How to Choose a 3D Printer

3D printer
3D Printer
The working process of 3D printing is that first modeling with computer modeling software, and then partitioning the built three-dimensional model into layer-by-layer cross sections, that is, slices, thus guiding the printer to print layer by layer.

The standard file format for collaboration between design software and printers is the STL file format. An STL file uses triangular faces to approximate the surface of an object. The smaller the triangle is, the higher the resolution of the generated surface is. PLY is a scanner for three-dimensional files generated by scanning, and the VRML or WRL files generated by it are often used as input files for full-color printing.

The printer reads the cross-sectional information in the file, prints these cross-sections layer by layer with liquid, powder or sheet materials, and then bonds the cross-sections of various layers in various ways to create an entity. The characteristic of this technology is that it can create almost any shape of objects.

The advantage of 3D printing technology is that it can produce relatively few products in a faster, more flexible and lower cost way. A desktop-sized 3D printer can meet the needs of designers or concept development teams to get models.

The resolution of the 3D printer is sufficient for most objects (the curved surface may be rough). To obtain higher resolution items, you can use the following methods. First you can use the current 3D printer to print a larger object. After doing some surface polishing, you can get a smooth surface of high-resolution items.

There are generally three types of 3D printers on the market, they are

1. XYZ Matrix 3D Printer
Example: FlashForge 3D Printer Creator Pro

This type of printer uses materials around proximal body to improve the speed to put them. But it leads to the head of printer is big and heavy. As a result, it has to reduce printing speed to make printing process stable.

Because of the simple structure, it is easy to control this kind of machine. The dependent axes help it simple to adjust it. The products at hundreds of dollars can print high quality models.

Image courtesy of Amazon

2. Delta 3D Printer
Example: FLSUN QQ-S Pre-Assembled Delta 3D Printer

Delta 3D printer mainly uses a three-axis parallel arm structure to run. It sends materials remotely. Therefore, the weight of the printer head is light, and the machine movement has little effect on the machine itself, and it is not easy to shake. It is therefore possible to print at about twice the speed of a rectangular 3D printer. Due to its structural factors, it is sophisticated to adjust it. But the product cost is not high and cost-effective.

Image courtesy of Amazon

3. Prusa i3 3D Printer
Example: Official Creality Ender 3 3D Printer

It is also a kind of xyz movement method, which only uses platform movement to replace the nozzle. The advantage is that it is convenient to adjust, the structure is simple, and it is easy to assemble. The disadvantage is that the platform is bulky, not easy to move too fast, and takes up more space. If you want to make a printing platform for large-scale equipment, it will be more cumbersome to move.

Image courtesy of Amazon

In Short:

XYZ matrix 3D printer to print large size items

Delta 3D printer to print at high speed

Prusa i3 to do cost-effective printing

In addition, there are 3 printing technologies. They are


1. SLA Printing

The principle of SLA is that the laser beam outlines the shape of the first layer of the object on the surface of the liquid photosensitive resin, and then the production platform is lowered by a certain distance, and then the cured layer is immersed in the liquid resin. Repeating this process till it is printed. Its advantages are reflected in the printing speed and printing quality. It can produce various precision parts and assemblies with complicated structures. But the technical threshold of SLA equipment is relatively high and so expensive.


2. DLP Printing

The material DPL uses is the same as SLA uses. The biggest difference with SLA is that DLP models use low-cost projector digital light sources to meet the molding requirements, while the SLA process is the laser beam scanning and curing from point to line and line to surface. Therefore, the DLP speed is faster than the SLA model of the same type.


3. FDM Printing

Almost all printers above are FDM printers. It heats and melts materials like ABS and PLA and sends them out like squeezing toothpaste, then layer by layer and finish models. This technology fully takes advantage of materials and no pollution of harmful gas and chemical materials. It is affordable and cost-effective. But the accuracy is not as perfect as SLA and DLP.

In a word, if you have limited budget, FDM will be your best option. And if you want to print more models with high accuracy, SLA and DLP can do it.