What is 3D Printing?

This is the first in a series of blog posts highlighting what Groundworks teaches its patrons about 3D printing. This page provides a introduction to 3D printing's basic concepts. Keep reading below or skip to another step using the links below:

If there is one thing 3D printer manufacturers have gotten right over the last few years it's making their 3D printers incredibly easy to use. Most 3D printers marketed to hobbyists and home enthusiasts provide a wonderful "plug and play" experience, but 3D printing can be a bit intimidating to anyone new to the technology.

In a nutshell, 3D printing is a process for making a physical object from a three-dimensional (3D) digital model. This is typically done by laying down many successive thin layers of a material, also known as additive manufacturing. Watch the time-lapse video below to see what this looks like:

The type of 3D printing seen in the video above is called fused deposition modeling (FDM) or fused filament fabrication (FFF), and builds objects layer by layer from the bottom up. They do this by heating plastic filament and extruding it through a small nozzle onto a build plate. FDM is arguably the most popular type of 3D printing and is most often used by hobbyists and other non-commercial enthusiasts. Commercial businesses are also known to use FDM for new product development, prototyping and even manufacturing development. This technology is considered to be simple-to-use and environmentally friendly. 

Groundworks' Prusa i3 MK3+ 3D printer uses this process. Here are the six (6) basic steps to go from a digital model to 3D printing a physical object:

Pictograms showing 3D printing process from design to printing. Links to each step are at the top of the page.
3D Printing Process, opens a new window by Kholoudabdolqader / CC-BY-SA 4.0, opens a new window

If you want to learn more...

For more information about 3D printing, visit the following links:

3D Printing Handbook by Prusa 3D (Manual de Usuario Para Impresoras 3D) - This handbook is specific to the Prusa i3 MK3S+ we have in Groundworks. It includes detailed information on how to use the 3D printer, basic troubleshooting and maintenance tips, and using PrusaSlicer to prep your models for 3D printing.

3D Printing Basics: The Free Beginner's Guide by 3DPrintingIndustry.com - The guide provides an overview of 3D printing, including a brief history of the technology, its processes, materials used and current and potential future applications.

Types of 3D Printing Technology by All3DP.com - An overview of the seven (7) categories of additive manufacturing processing. Uses images and videos to help readers visualize each process.

Learn more about 3D printing in Groundworks, located on the Main Library's lower level across from the Lego Lab.

Last updated 8/20/2022