HOW DOES 3D PRINTING WORK?
It starts with a 3D model. This model can be designed by an individual or downloaded from one of the many free 3D model sites available, and an example is thingiverse.com. Once you have the desired model, it is put into a program referred to as a "Slicer" program. This does exactly as the name implies, it slices the model layer by layer at desired height intervals and generates the code required by the 3D printer. Layer by layer is the best way to describe how a model is formed, similar to how a lego house is built. The programmer chooses what layer height is desired and the slicer program converts it into the program that builds the model one layer at a time. Many factors go into the programming side of things but the most important are the layer height (more on this later), material (PLA, PETG, ABS...) and infill (again, more to follow). Once the program is generated it is sent to the 3D printer, the material is selected and the print can begin.
To keep it simple, the better detail or resolution desired means a smaller layer height is required (0.1mm) the longer the print will take. An average layer height I print with is 0.2-0.24mm. This gives sufficient detail and keeps a reasonable time frame. Unfortunately, it's not a sliding scale in regard to the relation between layer height and time. That's why when the specifics are figured out on the customer's end, a cost quote will be determined. So remember, better print resolution = finer detail = way more time = more cost.
To help reduce the cost and the amount of material required the slicing software figures out an infill pattern instead of solid printing the component. The infill increases eliminate the need to solid fill the inside all while increasing the strength of the part, making the part lighter, and reducing print time and overall cost of the part. Infill can be set at 0% (a hollow part which can make printing difficult) all the way to 100% (which means a solid piece of plastic that in turns increases time and cost). There are also many different patterns available but won't dive into that topic. I generally use 15-50% depending on the end use of a part.
THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES OF MATERIALS?
Yes, different types of materials play a factor on your printed parts intended use. The materials I currently use are the following:
PLA (POLYLACTIC ACID)
Least expensive material that is easy to pint and comes in a variety of colours. PLA can also have additives like iron, copper and wood to offer extra features or print finishes that are not possible with normal PLA. PLA is ideal for models and items that will not be exposed to outdoors, heat or food products. It is considered to be biodegradable because it is made of fermented plant starch like corn.
PETG (POLYETHYLENE TEREPHTHALATE GLYCOL)
Still fairly inexpensive also available in a large array of colours both transparent and solid colours. PETG is a stronger more durable material that's qualities are better suited for outdoor use (improved UV and heat resistance) and use around food. This material has been used to make cookie cutter and kitchen gadgets but the end user always has to be aware that the method of 3D printing is done layer by layer. The idea of adhering the layers together does make small crevices that require really good cleaning. There are other post printing steps that can be taken as well to which information is available with a little internet search.
ABS (ACRYLONITRILE BUTADIENE STYRENE)
ABS for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is a thermoplastic polymer quite common in the industry. It is mainly known for its good impact resistance at low temperatures and for creating lightweight parts. Mainly used in the household appliance sector, it is also found in boat hulls, decoration pieces, toys, and especially in the famous bricks developed by LEGO. ABS plastic is also very popular in the FDM 3D printing market – as it is the most widely used material in this sector with PLA.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PLA AND RESIN:
PLA stands for Poly Lactic Acid, and is an FDM process or Fused Deposition Modeling. This is most likely a type of 3D Printing you have seen before. FDM lays down a layer of PLA, one at a time until you have your object. PLA is a great material as it has been engineered to be quite durable, reaching resolutions of up to 100 microns. PLA can be painted and sanded just like you might in a model airplane or model car. It is very recyclable non-toxic, and very easy to work with to get a nice clean print.
Photopolymer Resin is used in the SLA Process or Stereolithography Apparatus. This is used in high precision circumstances, or when specific material properties are needed (High temp resistance, wear resistance, etc…). Resin can reach resolutions of up to 25 microns. This is ideal for miniature figurines, or when a high tolerance is needed. Like PLA, Resin can also be sanded, painted, and glued together, when the parts have finished printing.
WHAT IS RESOLUTION?
Resolution is not what you might think it is in the 3D Printing world. Traditionally, resolution refers to how many pixels can fit into a small area, to create a clear and crisp picture. But of course, this is in 2D. In 3D, resolution refers to the Z axis. The printer builds the model by laying down layer after layer of material, until you have your final shape. The more layers you have, the better the layers will match and curves you have in your model.
WHAT IS SUPPORT MATERIAL?
Support material can help make an unprintable object printable, but it is not without its trade-offs. When given the option, it is always better to try and print without support material, however there are some objects that just simply require it. If this is the case, then it is important to know the effect that the support material will have on your model.
WHAT IS THE STARTUP COST?
The startup cost that you see in the cart covers a few different services bundled into one. In order to start a 3D Print successfully, one must consider print orientation, review a multitude of part specific settings within the slicer, design and review support material placement, print surface optimization, 3D file print-ability inspection, and quick repair of common geometric errors (such as ghost geometry, and inside out walls).
This is a “Per Order” charge, which means that it is only charged once per order, and not per item.
WHAT IS THE AVERAGE TURNAROUND TIME?
Generally speaking, our turnaround time is about 24hrs. If you send me a part today, it will be ready by tomorrow. That is of course if your print does not take longer that 24hrs to print. Please also take into consideration the amount of prints requested. We can make 1 part in a day, but if you ask us for 200 of that same part, we can accommodate your request, it just might take a bit longer.