Two Different Techniques
FDM – Fused Deposition Modeling
Most of the commonly available 3D printers for consumers are FDM printers. They work by melting plastic (PLA or ABS filament) and building the model layer by layer.
Pros of FDM printing:
- FDM printing material is fairly cheap
- FDM printers are also getting cheaper and cheaper
- Not too difficult to even build your own
- There are lots of different types of filaments available
- A well calibrated FDM printer can print fairly decent qualiy results
Cons of FDM printers:
- The resolution and details are still limited. Will not produce excellent quality prints.
- Printing often fails (the nozzle gets stuck, not enough support material etc.)
- Lots of mechanical parts that can all fail
The Fablab has two different FDM printers. Quality-wise they are quite similar. The biggest difference is the sixe of the objects that you can print.
Ultimaker 2 Extended
- Ultimaker Website
- Cura, the recommended software for creating the G-Code files for the Ultimaker printer
Makerbot Replicator 2X
SLA – Stereolithography
Stereolithography uses a liquid resin that hardens when a powerful light source hits it. Often the light source is an ultraviolet (UV) laser. Some printers use a DLP projector very similar to video projector you would have at home.
Pros of SLA printing
- Quality is much better than the FDM printers
- More quiet than the FDM printers
Cons of SLA printing
- The resin is much more expensive than the plastic filaments (at least for the printers we have in the Fablab)
- The printers are more expensive (especially large scale printers)
- Support material takes a long time to clean-up
- The resin can be a bit messy
SLA Printer in Aalto Fablab – Formlabs Form 2
3D Printing Workflow
1. Create (or Download) a 3D Model
3D Printers will of course need something to print. The standard file format for files for 3D printers is .SLA. Most 3D programs will have an option to save .SLA files or there is some plugin available.
How to create a 3D Model:
- Blender (free and open source)
- Fusion 360 (another popular option, free version available)
- SketchUp (free software)
- Skanect (3D scan yourself or someone else)
How to get ready-made models:
- Thingiverse (a huge community of people uploading their 3D models)
2. Create the G-Code
3D Printers work based on line-by-line text commands called G-Code. You need to convert the 3D model to G-Code using some kind of software. Usually the printer will come with their own recommended software.
- For the Ultimaker, use Cura
- For the Makerbot, use Makerbot Desktop
- For the Form 2, use PreForm (the Form 2 printer has its own protocol. It’s not really standard g-code)
You can download the software to your own computer, but it is recommended to use the computers in Fablab, since all the settings have been adjusted for the printers in the lab
3. Send the G-Code to the printer
After the G-Code is created, you can send it to the printer with an SD card, USB cable or to some printers even via WiFi.
This what we use in the Fablab:
- Ultimaker: SD Card
- Makerbot: SD Card
- Form 2: WiFi
- Use the interface on the printer itself to start the print
- Open Netflix or something else to keep you entertained while the printer does its thing
- You don’t need to stare at the printer while it’s printing, but it’s a good idea to check it every now and then. 3D printers have a tendency to fail the printing process