Examining New Tablet

LEARNING HUB

If you are new to 3D printing, we got you covered. Our list of topics will have you learning at a geometric pace! We update the contents periodically, so check in from time to time! 

THE BASICS

THE WHAT

What is 3D printing?


3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a method of fabrication, where layers of material are built on top of each other to form three-dimensional objects. The two most commonly available forms of 3D printing are Fused Deposition Modeling and Stereolithography, with each method utilizing different materials and technology. Over the course of the past decade, 3D printing technology has tremendously improved in quality, cost and availability, allowing homes, schools, small businesses and laboratories to adopt it, radically changing how people and businesses work.




What is an FDM printer?


FDM stands for Fused Deposition Modeling. In FDM printers, thermoplastic material in rolls of filament is melted to create 3D objects. During printing, the thermoplastic filament is fed through a hot extruder where it gets soft and pliable enough that it can be precisely 'drawn' by the print head in the X, Y and Z axes in the print area to build objects from the bottom up, with each new melted layer fusing on top of the previous cooled layer. This type of 3D printing technology has made advancements and has become more affordable and available, with new thermoplastic materials having been developed for a widening range of applications in engineering, prototyping and design. Check out our range of FDM printers sutiable for homes, professionals and businesses here.




What is an SLA printer?


SLA stands for StereoLithogrAphy. Like FDM, models are built layer by layer. SLA, however, uses curable photopolymer resins that are hardened by applying focused light (this process is called curing). As each layer is cured, the build platform lifts the model upwards, out of the resin and lowers it back for the next layer to be cured. The focused light source is either a laser or a Digital Light Processor (DLP). Lasers 'draw' the layers similarly to FDM printers. For DLP printers, an entire slice of a two-dimensional layer of the model is projected at once through the resin and onto the build platform, drastically shortening printing times. Like its FDM cousins, SLA printing technology has improved in cost and availability, as well as print efficiency, volume and accuracy. Advancements in photopolymers have also increased the range of applications with which more fields and industries can utilize. Check out our range of SLA printers sutiable for professionals and businesses here.




What materials can I use for 3D printing?


3D printers can either have proprietary systems which are calibrated to work only with their manufacturers' materials, or open systems which can be calibrated to work with materials from most if not all manufacturers which offer compatible materials. Materials commonly used for design, prototyping and engineering are PolyLactic Acid (PLA) and Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), commonly available in thermoplastic filament, although recent breakthroughs in photopolymers have created PLA and ABS-like materials for SLA printers. For casting, there are castable photopolymers with wax-like properties which can be used for casting jewelry pieces and dental wax-ups. In the field of dentistry, there are photopolymer resins for dental models usedfor thermoforming aligners, as well as bio-compatible resins which can be used for crowns, splints, dentures, and mouthguards. There are even specialized photopolymers with elastic or ceramic properties, as well as thermoplastic blends with wood, metal, nylon and even carbon fiber. Check out our range of thermoplastics for FDM printers and photopolymers for SLA printers.





INTERMEDIATE

THE HOW

How can 3D printing help me?


Because its applications are so vast, 3D printing as a Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) option has become a feasible, time-cutting and cost-saving alternative to many businesses around the world as the technology becomes more available and at a lower cost in tandem with Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software, which is used for 3D modeling in so many fields like manufacturing, engineering, architecture, jewelry, dentistry, art, design, education and so much more. For instance, rather than contract a factory just to make prototypes, many companies digitally model them in CAD software and 3D print them in-house for engineering or manufacturing. Jewellers can now model jewelry designs via CAD, 3D print them with wax castable material, and cast in precious metals, compared to traditional methods of hand sculpting which can have very human limitations. Such modern processes are similarly used in art and scultpure, where artists digitally sculpt their works and 3D print them for either limted runs or casting for mass production. In the field of dentistry, labs and even clinics model patients' teeth via dental CAD software after digitally acquiring them with intraoral scanners, and print these models on-site for aligners, dentures, crowns and more. The boundaries are endless with CAD/CAM. What do you think you can do with this technology?




How are FDM printers suitable for me?


When you need to do rapid prototyping, experiments, or intend to make strong and durable low-cost models where extreme precision and near perfect surface finish fresh off the build plate are not important, go with FDM. The MakerPI M1 is a mini FDM printer suitable for small home projects and prints with non-toxic and environamentally-friendly PLA, while the K5 PLUS is a fully-featured professional desktop printer that prints with a wide variety of 3rd party materials, including exotic ones like flexible, wood and even metallic filament! The Leapfrog Bolt PRO is an industrial printer with a huge build volume and is also very affordable for its class and function, making it the de-facto FDM fabrication solution for businesses and even factories, as evidenced by its utilization by leading manufacturers like Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Volkswagen, Fujitsu, Crocs, and many more.




How is the 3D printing process like?


Just like we need digital documents or photos to print on paper, digital 3D models are required to 3D print with material. 3D modeling is a specialized field which anyone can get into easily but is difficult to master. Blender is a free digital modeling software with online tutorials to help you learn. If you have yet to have some background in 3D modeling or digital sculpting, there are huge libraries featuring thousands of 3D objects in Thingiverse and Pinshape for you to download, absolutely free! All 3D printers come with slicing software called slicers, which can import 3D objects typically in Standard Tessellation Language (STL) or Object File (OBJ) formats. Slicers allow users to orientate and resize their 3D models and add supports for printing. Once your models are set for printing, the slicing software will use algorithms to slice the models into hundreds​ to thousands of layers, depending on the model height and layer resolution. The sliced model is saved as a set of instructions called G-code for printers to read and print. Once the models are printed, they can be removed from the build platform and require post-processing. For FDM prints, this involves removing any supports and if required, smoothing the surfaces of prints. SLA prints require more post-processing; apart from removing any supports, they are required to be washed in isopropyl alcohol and post-cured in UV chambers.




How are SLA printers suitable for me?


When you require precision, dimensional accuracy, extremely intricate details and a super smooth finish, or need to make molds for casting objects such as jewellery, dental molds or miniatures, go with SLA. Our EPAX printers are affordable professional SLA printers with extremely high precision, and can even print with specialist materials like flexible and porcelain resins, making them perfect for engineering, prototyping, manufacturing, dentistry, jewelry, design and more. Please do note that models printed with these printers are covered in sticky resin that has to be removed in a bath of isopropyl alcohol. This is why you need rubber gloves to protect your fingers from the resin and alcohol. Your prints would also require post-curing with either sunlight, or a post-curing UV LED chamber like the DX Cure Pro.





ADVANCED

DO MORE

My FDM prints still look somewhat rough. Is there a way to make them look better?


No matter how high the resolution or great the FDM printer, including The K5 Plus and Bolt Pro, most prints will require post processing. The safest way is to sand down the surface of your print with fine grit sandpaper. If you want your prints painted, apply an acrylic or enamel based primer first. And, if you really want to make your prints pop, check out MODIFI3D and MODIFI3D Pro, our heated 3D print finishing tools which help you finish, repair and modify your prints easily, and DAVID400, our electric, linear-stroke precision pen sander. Your prints will look professional like they have come off an assembly line!




My FDM prints keep coming off the build platform. What can I do to keep this from happening?


Prints coming off the build platform is usually caused by improper callibration of the build platform. Before starting your first print, always carry out a callibration exercise, and callibrate the platform after every few hundred printing hours. Even though many modern printers come calibrated right out of the box, movement, vibration and even impact during shipping and transportation can cause them to require recalibration, and vibrations from hundreds of hours of printing might require the same. The M1 has an intelligent leveling system, and the K5 Plus and Bolt Pro have auto calibration systems which make platform calibration fast and hasslefree. And if you require a better build surface on your platform, LokBuild is an innovative 3D print surface made of special material which provides a durable and stable build surface whilst preventing model warping.




My SLA print is done. What is the best way to post-process it?


After finishing 3D printing a model, you have to remove the print from build plate, remove support structures and finally immerse it in isopropyl alcohol. There are a few tools that will make life easier when working with resin prints. A putty knife or similar instrument can help remove prints from the build plate. Be patient to find a point to insert the metal scraper/spatula so as to avoid breaking the prints. As long as there is a little gap between the print and the build plate, you’ll find it easy to remove your print from build plate. The next stage of post-processing is bathing your prints in isoporpyl alcohol (IPA). An IPA concentration of 90% and above is strongly recommended. The purpose of this stage is to dissolve any uncured resin on the model, especially resin which is pooled in crevices and recesses. Your prints should be immersed in a container filled with IPA with the unsubmerged parts sprayed with IPA in a spray bottle. A pair of diagonal cutting pliers is highly recommended in the next stage for cutting off supports very close to the actual print. This will make the surface where the supports are removed almost flush and thus make wet sanding your print surface with fine grit sandpaper much easier. This process will not remove much material, but will polish its surface.