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Guide to 3D Printing

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How does 3D printing work?
3D printing refers to the actual creation of real-world goods or models.
You can download more than 100,000 free designs, create your own design using 3D creation software, or scan an existing object into a model with a 3D scanner. If you intend to create your own designs, check out our 3D Creation section.
The 3D printer then turns this model file into a real object by extruding plastic layer by layer.
The printing process
After loading the design, the process begins with the printer extruding the first layer of the build. This is repeated, layer by layer, until your object is complete and ready for you to enjoy!
Here's a video by Makerbot's Founder and CEO, Bre Pettis.
Prosumer 3D printers
The most common 3D printing technique is FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication). A reel or spool of bulk plastic filament is the main type of print material using this method. The tip of this plastic filament is heated until pliable, then slowly printed (extruded) onto the printing bed in a series of extremely thin layers. Please see below for a description of various plastic materials.
What can I make / print?
Aside from the 100,000+ (and growing daily!) free designs available for download, you can use a variety of 3D modeling software to create almost anything you can imagine - art, tools, replicas and figurines, cases and stands, high-resolution models and prototypes, real-world products, and much more.
Materials
The materials that are most commonly used in prosumer 3D printing are PLA and ABS in reel form. Other materials include epoxy resin, glass polyamide, wax and even metals such as steel, silver and titanium.
ABS
ABS is familiar to most of us as the material used for Lego brand toys. It's light, durable, and strong. It's a little more demanding to use than PLA, and also gives off an odor of melted plastic during the build process. ABS tends to curl upwards as it cools so a heated printer bed is needed to keep it warm during printing. But ABS is ideal for utensils, tools, and items which will require some degree of flexibility or be exposed to higher temperatures. An ABS printed object can also be easily reworked by sanding, drilling, or finishing the object with acetone.
PLA
PLA is derived from corn starch and other renewable ingredients, and is fully biodegradable and non-toxic. It becomes printable at lower temperatures, so it is easier to print safely. However, that thermal sensitivity is not ideal for designs that will be exposed to high heat. A PLA printed object tends to be much harder and more brittle than an ABS object, which means that it cannot be reworked after printing, as well as having a tendency to crack in higher-stress environments. Summarily, PLA is a more ecologically friendly and forgiving material, while also being odor-free, although not quite as strong or durable as ABS. We recommend PLA for your daily printing, and ABS for more demanding jobs.
ABS PLA
Extrude at 220°-240°C Extrude at 180°-210°C
Heated bed needed Heated bed would benefit
No additional cooling needed Advantage of cooling while printing
Adheres well to polyimide tape Adheres well to most surfaces
Open to cracking, delamination, warping Open to curling of corners and overhangs
Flexible Brittle
Molten plastic smell during extrusion process but not after No smell when being extruded
Petroleum-based Corn-based, nontoxic, ecologically friendly
Experimental
There are also many experimental filament types being developed. Because they are experimental, these filament types may not be supported by certain 3D printers, and are used at the operator’s own risk. Some examples are:
PVA- low melting temperature and water-solubility make this a favorite for printing support materials that can later be dissolved.
Flexible (Thermoplastic Elastomer)- produces flexible prints with high elasticity and abrasion resistance
Polycarbonate- very durable, impact and temperature resistant.
Printing build platforms (beds)
There are two types of commonly used printing beds.
Heated bed Non-heated bed
A heated bed helps your first printed layer maintain contact with the printer bed throughout the printing process, yielding better results. The first layer is an important one, and the heated bed helps prevent the small amount of warping (which can happen when the material cools) from impacting the quality of your print.
A heated bed is required for ABS and beneficial for PLA.
This can work fine for PLA printing, which has less tendency to warp when cooling.
Layer thickness (resolution)
Prosumer 3D printers can print layers as thin as 20 microns (.02 mm). However, printing at higher resolutions requires additional experience with printer calibration and additional time to extrude finer layers of plastic. Most prints are done at a faster “draft” setting using resolutions of 100-200 microns. We list maximum resolution in the spec table of each printer. Remember: The higher the resolution, the thinner the layer.
Build volume
You will find a specification for build volume on every printer. This tells you the maximum object size that this printer can create. It is a major factor that people consider when purchasing. Keep in mind that as with layer thickness, printing large volume models requires additional experience with printer calibration and significantly more time than smaller models.
Multi vs. single extruder
A multi-head extruder will give you the capability to produce multi-colored objects. You can also print multi-material objects by assigning each extruder specific material. Dynamism offers 3D printers with one, two, or three extruders.
Single extruder
Dual extruder
Triple extruder
The future of 3D printing
People are unleashing their imaginations by printing toys for kids, gifts for others, and utility items for themselves. Businesses are saving thousands on the cost of producing rapid prototypes. Researchers are able to 3D scan exact replicas of rare and delicate fossils for hands-on scientific study. And we're just beginning to explore more advanced possibilities: life-saving applications in organ production, life-changing functionality with tailor-made prosthetics, and custom-designed and printed food products.
3D printing at Dynamism
In 1997, Dynamism saw the mobile computing revolution, and gave our customers white glove service and a front row seat to the best-of-the-best products.
Now the Dynamism 3D printer store is open for business. Your 3D printer experience comes with the same benefits you expect from all Dynamism products.
  • Curated best-of-class products
  • Expert, unbiased sales advice
  • The best selection of 3D printers and related accessories
  • Unlimited toll-free dedicated Dynamism technical support
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