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3-D printing

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3D printing is type of additive manufacturing. The technology allows artists to print out 3D models of their designs using a computer. It does this by taking a 3D computer generated image and manufacturing it into a physical figurine.

Due to falling prices, it is now becoming available for the everyday artist and 3D designer. The technology gives artists much freedom when designing 3D art. They have the power to create virtually any shape out of virtually any material. This method of manufacturing is also much more dynamic than other methods like traditional molding or CNC cutting. When artists print 3D models, they don't have to worry about certain aspects, for example: through 3D printing, artists can print 3D models that are similar to rubics cubes, certain puzzle like products, mechanical functioning products, and other significant products such as a ball within a ball. These kinds of products are difficult or impossible in traditional mold manufacturing, as well as CNC cutting.

3D printing in practice[edit]

First, you need to have a 3D model of whatever object you want to print. You can make this model yourself, preferably using Google SketchUp (as this program is most suited for making models for 3D printing[1]). Note that you can however also use another program like Blender3D, Sculptris, 2Brush, 123DSculpt, ... or a 3D modelling program specifically made for 3D printing -such as 123DStudio, TinkerCAD, 3DTin, ...) and convert it to a .stl or .obj file. Another option is to simply attain the model from a website like,,,, .com,,, google 3D warehouse, ... and use the .stl file as is (or in case you downloaded a regular 3D file (ie sketchup, collada, ... file), convert it to .stl or .obj file. Finally, a last option is to not make the 3D file on a computer at all, but simply scan it in using a 3D scanner like David Starter-Kit, 3DSystems Sense, Makerbot Digitizer, Fuel 3D, ... With this option too, again a conversion would be necessairy.

Next, you need to use mesh software to repair any errors that might now be in the .stl or .obj file. Examples of suitable mesh software are: netfabb basic, MeshLab, Meshmixer. Once this is done, you then need to use a 3D printer client (such as Repetier Host/Slic3r/Skeinforge, Cura, KISSSlicer) to make the so-called "g-code" and immediately print out the model with it.

During the printing process, the printer will create the model layer by layer out of various materials. For example, the printer might create an ABS plastic model by producing it layer by layer and fusing the layers together. Through 3D printers, artists can print 3D models of their creations. Note that you might want to use different materials for the actual object, and the support (infill) material.


There are quite a few materials out there right now that can be used when trying to print 3D models. There are companies out there offering a wide variety to choose from. Some places offer 5-10 materials. Some offer over 50! These materials could be ceramics, plastics, liquid resin, rubber like materials, metals[2], materials with mechanical properties, or even precious metals. Artists can print 3D models out of gold, silver, and platinum (though obviously at a high cost). The type of material you can use will depend on your type of printer. An overview of the type of printers available:

  • Fused deposition modelling (FDM) printer : uses filaments (=plastic strings of ABS, PLA, PVA, HIPS, Polyamide, Soft PLA, LayWoo-D3, Laybick, BronzeFill, ...)
  • Laminated Object Modelling (LOM) printer
  • Stereolithography (SLA) printer: uses photopolymers
  • Selective Laser Sintering (/Direct Metal Laser Sintering) printer: uses metals, plastics, nylon, glass, ceramics, ...
  • Electron Beam Melting (EBM) printer: uses metal powder
  • Digital Light Processing (DLP) printer: uses resin
  • Material Jetting (MJ) printer: uses photopolymers
  • PolyJet printer: uses metal powder, plastic
  • Binder Jetting: uses sand, polymers or metal

Most common materials for FDM printing[edit]

Filaments can be made of various materials. The most used materials are (from the most durable/cheapest to more expensive/more difficult to use)[3][4]:

ABS: optimum nozzle temperature: between 215°C and 250°C optimum printbed temperature: between 90°C and 115°C best printbed surface: kapton tape, or use aceton/"ABS glue" on surface

PET: optimum nozzle temperature: between 210°C and 220°C optimum printbed temperature: between 20°C and 65°C best printbed surface: blue painters tape, glass, kapton tape

HDPE: optimum nozzle temperature: between 225°C and 230°C optimum printbed temperature: 20°C best printbed surface: polypropylene plate note: inexpensive/strong yet prone to warping

Nylon (aka polyamide) : optimum nozzle temperature: 245°C optimum printbed temperature: 20°C best printbed surface: grooved nylon plate, glass fibre epoxy plate note: layer thickness best kept thinner than 0,25mm

Polycarbonate (PC) : optimum nozzle temperature: between 280°C and 305°C optimum printbed temperature: between 85°C and 95°C best printbed surface: kapton tape

Soft PLA: optimum nozzle temperature: between 230°C and 240°C optimum printbed temperature: 20°C best printbed surface: blue painters tape, heated glass, Frogtape

Polylactic acid (PLA): optimum nozzle temperature: between 190°C and 220°C optimum printbed temperature: between 20°C and 60°C best printbed surface: blue painters tape, heated glass, kapton tape, vinyl note: not toxic and environmental yet not very durable, usable to make objects to store food in if filaments do not include toxic colorants (ask!)

LayWoo-D3: optimum nozzle temperature: between 175°C and 200°C optimum printbed temperature: between 20°C best printbed surface: blue painters tape note: color changes to darker with higher temperature

LayBrick: optimum nozzle temperature: between 165°C and 230°C optimum printbed temperature: 20°C best printbed surface: blue painters tape note: lower temperature will yield a slicker printed model

BronzeFill: optimum nozzle temperature: between 200°C and 220°C optimum printbed temperature: between 55°C and 60°C best printbed surface: kapton tape note: expensive (60€/kilo)

Materials used for support material (filament used on second nozzle if present):

HIPS: optimum nozzle temperature: between 220°C and 230°C optimum printbed temperature: 115°C best printbed surface: kapton tape note: soluble in limonene

PVA: optimum nozzle temperature: between 180°C and 200°C optimum printbed temperature: 50°C best printbed surface: blue painters tape note: soluble in water, expensive (80€/kilo)

It should be noted that using the correct settings (heating temperature for nozzle, and printbed) for every material are very imporant. Failure to use the correct settings can result in "stringing" (happens when nozzle temperature is too high), "warping", ... of the model, ... Note that you should enter the values presented here per profile (so use a different profile per material), also note that you should enter the the other values in your profile that have been supplied by your 3D printer manufacturer to use as a basis (these are generally supplied as a .ini profile and should have been given along with the 3D printer when you bought it. Also note that you should input the correct diameter of the filaments into the programs. Often, a general size is given, but in practice (i.e. 1,75mm, 3mm, ...), this size is often off a bit, so you best check the thickness again with a caliper, or have it checked again in the store where you buy it.

Benefits of 3D printing[edit]

How do artists benefit when they print 3D models? Imagine an artist spending hours and hours on a project. This model was his or her vision, and they created it. All the time and effort was thrown in this model... for what? Well, artists can see their models on their computers, but that seems kind of bland in my opinion. Imagine that artist being able to hold his or her model, in their own hands. Imagine how inspiring it would be to know that you created something - you brought it to life. What else comes for artists who print 3D models? Imagine interviewing for a game company. You would be just another interviewee with good designs. Unless you printed your models! How cool would it be for your interviewer to hold your work? Perhaps an artist was an engineer for a drilling company. Imagine that artist being able to bring in physical scaled models of your drills, pipe, and other parts. For an interviewer to be able to see your models in person - that could be powerful. Very powerful. When an artist would print 3D models, he or she could greatly prove his or her chances of landing a job!

See also[edit]


  1. Most suited since flaws can be created when converting the made 3D model to an .stl file with programs like Blender3D, ...
  2. Molten metal 3D printers from EOS GMBH and Arcam AB
  3. 3D printen startersgids
  4. Ontdek 3D printen by Bob Timroff

External links[edit]

  • Yobi3D: 3D model search engine. It provides a 3D viewer to see search results in 3D.
  • Thingiverse: site allowing the sharing of free 3D models (under several licenses). For printing purposes STLs are normally needed but it can house any 3D format like .skp as well.
  • OpenSCAD; a 3D modelling program that can output the 3D model directly in .STL. It is easy to combine with thingiverse because it allows easy manipulation of parametric designs by non-experts and is completely open source. OpenSCAD is very difficult to use to make actual models though.
  • Plug-in for Google SketchUp to export in .STL
  • FastSpring, Turbosquid and Falling Pixel are other sites where regular 3D models (.skp) are often sold
  • Ponoko: make and sell manufactured products (sending them worldwide) based on a .STL or VRML97 file
  • Shapeways: print and send yourself manufactured items from a .skp or .STL file
  • Parametric parts a new online service similar to openscad that has its own repository
  • Using the 3D printer of a private person living in the vicinity
  • 3D Printing Events - find nearest 3d printing fairs & events in your area
  • 3D Printer Filament - a quick summary of the most common consumables used in 3D printing

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