The 3D Printing Bible

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What is 3D printing?

3D printing is the epitome of rapid prototyping, or quickly creating an object for testing purposes. There are several different types of 3D printing, each one serving its own uses and niche.

SLA Printing

blah blah blah this is very expensive and we don't have these blah blah blah

Metal Sintering

blah blah blah this is even more expensive and we definitely don't have these blah blah blah

FDM Printing

This is the type of printing we do in house. This works by moving a "print head" and "print bed" in 3 dimensions. The "print head" is composed of a heater, temperature probe, and an extruder. The extruder is a metal part that has a small hole at the end of it to let the plastic filament out. The print bed is a flat piece of glass where the plastic is layered on to print the model. In order to print something, the printer will lay out a 2D "layer" of plastic, move either the print head or print bed by some small distance in the Z direction (usually .06-.2mm), and repeat the process until the print is complete. There are some important limitations of FDM printing: Overhangs must be supported from the bottom (This includes holes). They are very slow, taking from 4 hours up to a week to complete a print, depending on size. Finally, they can only print a single color for the entire print. The Ultimaker 3 can print in 2 different colors, but we use the second color for a support material that produces cleaner prints.

Designing Parts for 3D Printing

Not every part that you submit to be printed will be accepted. Some models are impossible to print. Some examples of these are provided below, but please keep in mind that this is not an all inclusive list.

Dimensions

The maximum print volume of our printers are 197mm x 215mm x 300mm, or 7.75in x 8.46in x 11.81in. That being said, we will usually reject prints that exceed 4in x 4in x 4in unless you provide a good reason to need a print larger than that. The amount of time it takes to print something increases by the size of the print cubed. The 4in^3 maximum size is to prevent unnecessarily large prints from taking all the available printing slots.

Tiny Holes

In general, small holes that require support (Usually between 2mm-8mm, depending on thickness of hole) must be oriented in the Z axis so that no support material is required. Removing support material from holes that small is extremely difficult to nigh on impossible. If you are planning to have a small screw mounting hole, for example, make sure that it is on the surface with the most surface area.

Fully Enclosed Holes

A fully enclosed holes is a hole that is inside of your part, such as making a spherical cutout within a solid cube. It's impossible to remove the support material from these, so we can't print them.