The 3D Printing Thread With a couple of project logs using 3D printed parts, and the increasing ubiquity of 3D printers I thought I'd start a thread on them. Types FFF/FDM (Fused Filament Fabrication/Fused Deposition Modelling*) *FDM is trademarked by Stratasys and so FFF is used by the open source community FFF uses thermoplastic filament that is heated and extruded on to the print surface. Components are built up as a series of 2D layers. This is the most common and easily available type of 3D printing. The likes of RepRap and Makerbot printers are FFF. Common materials include: PLA, ABS, HDPE, Nylon. However any thermoplastic could be used. More niche materials are being developed, such as copper or wood filled PLA filament. SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) SLS uses lasers to fuse together a fine powder into the required shape. Between each pass more powder is spread over the part to add height. This is only available at a commercial level due to the high cost of the printers. Common Materials include: Thermoplastics, Thermosetting Plastics, Some metals including Titanium I've had alot more experience with FFF printing so the rest of the info will be based around that. Printers I've used two types of printers extensively, the Makerbot Replicator 2X and the RepRapPro Mendel 3. The Mendel 3 is part of the open source RepRap movement. Where the aim is to reproduce as much of a printer with another one. As a result, joints and connectors are 3D. Makerbot The Apple brand of the 3D printing world. Prebuilt with limited settings and options for modifications. Works out of the box very well. - PLA only - 1.75mm Filament - 0.4mm Nozzle - Unheated bed - The print head moves in the XY plane and the bed in the Z direction Mendel 3 Built from a kit. As it is open source it is encourage to modify and change parts. There are many variants available but I bought the hardware only kit and printed the rest of the parts. - 1.75mm filament - nearly any heat softening material - 0.5mm nozzle - Heated bed - Head moves in the XZ plane and the bed in the Y direction - Can be upgraded to house 3 more nozzles for multicoloured printing This is my Mendel 3 (Please excuse the crap phone photo). All the black parts were printed by me. Software and File Types Any component needs to be saved as an STL file. All CAD packages support this (simple) file format. For my CAD modelling I use Autodesk Inventor (Free student license! ), however the likes of Google Sketchup are more than adequate. There are also online libraries of STL files, if your CAD skills aren't developed enough: YouMagine, Thingiverse The next step is Slicing Software This takes the STL file and slices it into 2D layers and converts them to GCode (the operating instructions for 3D printers). This dictates head locations, speeds, extrusion rates and temperatures. I use Slic3r with very good results. Makerbot has its own software that can only be used with its printers. I haven't used it but there is also Skeinforge. Print Settings This can get very complex as values are optimised for quality and print time. However the main areas are: Layer Height The general rule of thumb is to not go above 75% of nozzle width. Most of my printing is done at 0.2 or 0.3mm layer heights. A finer layer height gives a better surface finish but takes longer to print. Infill This is the amount, expressed as a percentage, the printer will fill the inside of components. A figure of 10-30% is common for structural parts, decorative or draft objects can be done at 2-5%. Slic3r gives many options of shape of infill including rectilinear, hexagonal, concentric, octagonal spiral. Temperatures There are two temperatures that need to be set: the nozzle and bed. These values are very dependent on the material you are using. A rough estimate for PLA is 180-230'C for the nozzle and 55-60'C for the bed. If the nozzle is too cold, the plastic won't flow well enough. If the bed is too cold or too hot the first layer won't stick and likely come off in the print Head Speed There are many different settings that can be changed depending on what the head is printing. Usually the slower the head moves the higher quality the print. Too fast and the printer can shake and knock the print off the bed. I'll update this thread tomorrow with some more info about print heights, infill density and quality. But for now I'd be keen to hear other people's experiences and inputs. If there is anything that I've missed let me know and I'll update the original post. Dave EDIT: Updated with more info.