How 3D printing works

by: Anthony Garland

  1. Generate a 3D design
    • Requires Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools (SOLIDWORKS, Autodesk Fusion 360, TinkerCAD)
    • Post-processing with solid model analysis software tools (Meshmixer)
    • Output is a 3D Model (.stl file)


  1. Digitally Slice the 3D Model
    • 3D Printing deposits material in layers
    • The “slicer” is a software tool
      • Slices the 3D model
      • Plans location of support material (scaffolding)
      • Runs Algorithms to plan path of tool head
      • Generates machine instructions (Gcode)
    • Examples (Slic3r, Cura, Simply3D)



  1. Print the Model
    • Many 3D printing processes exist
    • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is a standard inexpensive, safe method of printing that is the most commonly sold type of 3D printer. 
      • Extrudes plastic filament out of a hot nozzle
      • Printer reads instructions from a SD card
      • Select plastic filament type and color
      • Prints ones layer at a time
      • 0.2 mm layer thickness
      • Nozzle is around 210 degrees C  (410 F)
      • Two nozzles allow printing two materials within  a single object


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