What is it?
So you might have heard the term 3D printing, and it’s okay if you don’t know what it is yet. We are going to explore it in this course together. In general, 3D printing is like regular printing, when you print a document on paper you use two dimensions. In 3D printing you take a digital model, and when you send it to a printer it results in a physical object.
Have you ever seen someone carve a block of wood or a bar of soap? That carving is created by removing soap (subtractive) like in the picture.
In 3D printing, the printer does just the opposite! It’s an additive process whereby an object is printed in very thin layers, or slices.
3D printing is also referred to as Rapid prototyping (RP) which is a group of techniques used to quickly fabricate (build) a scale model of a physical part or assembly using three-dimensional computer aided design (CAD) software. Construction or assembly is most commonly done using 3D printers and is also called additive layer manufacturing technology.
HOW IT WORKS:
A 3D printer receives a print file, just like a conventional printer, and then a filament (most commonly made of plastic) is heated and extruded on a plate in successive layers- sort of like a hot glue gun. The filament hardens quickly but typically, these files take a lot longer to print than paper!
3 Types of 3D Printing
While many companies manufacture 3D printers, there are three methods that the printers use.
1. Fused deposition modeling – plastic filament is heated and extruded in successive layers
2. Selective Laser Sintering – fine powder is placed and a laser moves over it and fuses it to the layer beneath
3. Stereolithography – photosensitive liquid resin is exposed to ultraviolet light which hardens it
The cheapest, and most readily available to classrooms is fused deposition modeling, and that will be the type that we will use for the lessons in this unit.
There are three ways of printing in 3D that are pictured here by National Geographic: Original image can be seen at
Ways to Create Files
There are now 3D pens. With these devices you can layer an object up by placing the melted plastic in layers. The short video embedded here shows how a 3D pen can be used to create a model. 3D printers do this same thing, but from a digital file and they create an object in layers, or slices. As you add layers, your piece begins to emerge.
What Kinds of File Formats