The Ultimate Guide to 3D Projects: Where to Start

3D projects involve different kinds of materials, processes and technologies that are combined to produce customized solutions. Contrary to popular thought, 3D projects do not refer to one specific kind of production or technological process. Below explains the fundamental knowledge one must know to start a 3D project.

3D Printing
Every 3D project will begin and end with 3D printing. Traditional computers and printers use files and ink to produce documents. 3D printers use complex blueprints and a variety of manufacturing materials to create physical products. Thus, 3D printing is different from regular manufacturing because a layer process is used to create the object from nothing, quite is opposite to traditional production systems that break down raw materials to make smaller products.

3D Printing Software
Traditional design uses CAD software to create objects and buildings. Printable 3D files are created through two primary ways. First, a 3D scanner can scan a physical object to create a 3D image. Second, special 3D CAD software is used to create drawings. Engineers and production designers often create the blueprints that become 3D objects. There are currently there two 3D-printable formats. CAD files are universally popular with many existing templates available. They are easy to create and even easier to edit. Standard tessellation language (STL) files are basic blueprints that are created and edited through emerging STL programs.

The 3D Printing Process
Once the designer finishes the blueprint, the CAD files will be exported into a standard tessellation language (STL) file. This process translates designs and measurements into triangulated surfaces. Then, the STL file is divided into hundreds or even thousands of tiny 2D layer files. The 3D printer will use the 2D layer specs as the basic building blocks to create the final product. Regardless of the 3D printing technology, all design files are reduced into microscopic layers before 3D printing. The object’s actual layer thickness will be equally determined by the material, technology, target resolution and project timeline. That is, thick layers result in fast builds, but thin layers result in slower, but finer resolutions.

The 3D Printing Options
3D projects can be realized through different types of 3D printing technologies. Stereolithography (SLA) is a fascinating technology that uses curing resin, a type of chemical gelation, and ultraviolet laser. SLA-based objects will be printed layer by layer until the final product is raised out of the resin vat. Selective laser sintering (SLS) printing uses a laser to burn or bake an object into a specific pattern, while digital light processing (DLP) uses ultraviolet light to cure resin. The most popular type of 3D printing, fused filament fabrication (FFF), uses a nozzle to melt plastic into thin layers that are stacked one on top of another to form a completed object.

Learn how to start and finish DIY 3D printing projects here.