How Do 3D Printers Work?

‘How do 3D printers work?’, a question I asked myself many times over before starting my role at 3D Print Works. Having graduated with a degree in marketing earlier this year, my curriculum included very little about the concepts 3D printing!

In my role at 3D Print Works I have been set the task of developing the social and digital strategy. I hope to achieve this through sharing my experiences and interaction within the 3D world.

To understand 3D printing further I was encouraged to make my first 3D print. I selected Baby Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy film because he is a character you can’t help but love! Having selected my model, I needed to set the print details, which to me looked much like choosing colour or black and white on a traditional printer.

Model of Choice: Baby Groot

Filament Colour: Glow in the dark green

Size:  15cm x 14cm

Printing method: FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) 

Printer: Flash Forge

Extruder temperature or printer head (the nozzle melted plastic comes out): 210°C

Heat Plate: 80°C

Layer thickness: 0.2mm

Understanding how 3D printers work is relatively straight forward. A 3D model is coverted or built in a digital format where you can edit particular aspects of the model. When you input all the settings you want, you then down load the digital file to a SDHC card. This card is then inserted into the 3D printer, you press ‘Build’ and 4 hours and 43 minutes later ‘Whala!!’ … A baby Groot. Well that’s how it should be in theory, however I discovered 3D printing is not that straight forward!

Firstly, I uploaded my digital file into Maker Ware also known as slicer software. This programme cut up my 3D digital model into hundreds of slices so that each individual slice can be printed on top of one another, eventually creating my 3D baby Groot. The diagram below demonstrates this concept.

I then set the printer to work and this is where I learned the difficulties of 3D printing first hand. The initial base of the model refused to stick to the heat plate, as a result this happened…

I was then advised to reduce the heat plate temperature to 60°C, which I did and to my delight it stuck! The print was nearly complete; however, as seen on the left baby groot head I had managed to give baby Groot a beard… not by choice!

After consulting my 3D experts, I understood that the filament was not solidifying quickly enough and so turning on the front fan would address this issue. I also added another exterior fan to add to the cooling power.

After much frustration my Groot head was complete, sticking with the same settings I pushed ahead with the lower body and to my delight no issues occurred. My baby Groot was complete and along with it my first 3D print.

If you want to print your own baby Groot you can download the file HERE on MyMiniFactory. Why not print it in your choice of elefialment 1.75 available HERE.

So in answering the question 'How do 3D printers work?' I hope my story helps you understand and overcome some of the challenges you face. It will all be worth it when you have your first 3D Print! Goodluck!