First in 3D Printing is to create a blueprint slash three-dimensional digital file of the object we want to print. The most common way of creating a digital model is with Computer-Aided Design – CAD. However, there is a large range of professional and entry-level software that can produce a file suitable for 3D Printing.
- DESIGN. You can use 3D modeling software like Blender, SketchUp, AutoCad, SolidWorks, Maya, PhotoShop, ThinkerCad or others to create your own designs. Almost any 3D modeling software can be used to create a 3D printable file.
- SCAN. Another way to create a three-dimensional digital file is through 3D scanning. 3D scanning is a technology, closely related to 3D printing, that analyzes a real-world object and instantly creates a digital replica.
- DOWNLOAD. We can also download designs from the websites like Thingivers, YouMagine, CrabCad, and MyMinifactory Shapeways that other users have modeled.
Once you have finished the CAD design, it is time to send it to the printer. First, we need to convert it into an appropriate file format. The most common 3D Printing file format is called STL, which stands for STereoLithography, and named after the first-ever 3D printing process.
This is the process of translating the 3D File into instructions for the 3D printer to follow. Slicing is dividing or chopping the 3D model into hundreds or thousands of horizontal layers, telling the machine exactly what to do, step by step. After the files are Sliced, a new file format is generated called G-code, with the file extension .gcode. G-code is the most widely used numerical code programming language, mainly used in computer-aided manufacturing to control automated machine tools like 3D Printers and CNCs (Computer Numerical Controls). In a nutshell, G-code is the language of the machine and what we use to communicate with it!
The printing machines are made of many moving and intricate parts, and they demand correct maintenance and calibration to produce successful prints. The machine will follow the automated G-code instructions, so as long as there is no software error or the machine doesn’t run out of raw material, there should not be an issue during the printing process.