The 5 basic things you should know about 3D printing. Today, 3D printing technology is being used to create everything from spare parts to prosthetic limbs. Even though 3D printing has been around for over 30 years, the technology is just starting to revolutionize many different industries such as manufacturing and medicine.

However, 3D printing is not only being used by big companies. The rapid growth and affordability of 3D printing have made the technology available to small businesses, schools, and homes. Many people have already recognized the numerous benefits of owning a 3D printer. And now for the 5 Basic Things You Should Know About 3D Printing

1. Printing Methods

3D printed objects are created by adding layers of different materials on top of each other. The process is also known as additive manufacturing. There are several different methods of 3D printing which are being used across different industries.

  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
    Fused deposition modeling uses a heated thermoplastic filament and extrudes one layer at a time to create a three-dimensional object. The technology dates back to the 80s before it was commercialized in the 90s.
  • Stereolithography (SLA)
    Stereolithography uses preprogrammed designs and laser beams to build an object from liquid polymers that solidify on contact with a laser.
  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
    Selective laser sintering’s power source is also a laser. It uses a 3D design for pointing in space and binding materials into solids. Still in its relative infancy, SLS is applied to low volume production and rapid prototyping.
  • Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
    Selective laser melting uses a production similar to SLS, except its materials are melted as opposed to sintered. The SLM process has more and different property options like porosity and crystal.
  • Electronic Beam Melting (EBM)
    EBM uses dense components to build layers of metal powder that’s melted by an electron beam and reconstructed to exacting geometry defined by CAD models.
  • Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)
    Laminated object manufacturing requires paper or plastic that will be laminated through pressure and heat before being cut into a shape with a blade or laser.

2. Materials

The 3D printing technology uses filaments which can be of various materials. The material that is going to be used depends on the project and the printer. Some, like plastic, are commonly used while others can require high-end printers.

  • Plastic
    Plastic is a common resource for the FDM process. There are many different types such as nylon, polyamide, ABS, PLA and LayWood – a product developed for extrusion printing. Plastic is combined in powder form with powdered aluminum.
  • Metal
    Metal and its composites are applied to industrial-grade 3D printing. It utilizes aluminum and cobalt derivatives, powdered stainless steel and titanium. The jewelry industry uses a lot of gold and silver.
  • Bio Materials
    While still in the research stage, the medical industry has found a way to bioprint living stem cells that will one day be used to develop organs for transplants or replacement body parts. Successfully printing fully functional vital organs will revolutionize the medical industry and vastly shorten organ donor lists.
  • Food
    Food that is puréed can be inserted into a syringe-like container to be extruded. Implementing 3D printing in the food industry allows cooks to be more creative with designing their food in shapes and forms that are hard to create by hand.
  1. Quality

Like any manufacturing venture, results in 3D printing will be grounded in what the tools are capable of producing. 3D printers are excellent for creating consumer-grade products like shoes, curtains, even couches, and tables. But they are even used to produce items with demanding specifications, such as airplane, vehicle or heavy machinery parts.

Print speed and resolution are critical to 3D production. Print speed impacts how fast your projects get done and resolution fine tunes products. There are 3D printers with varying printing speeds, from 40 – 150mm/s. Usually, with faster printers the quality of the 3D print suffers. You may have to compromise on one or spend more to maximize both.

4. STereoLithography (STL) Files

STL files are used by CAD software to create foundations for 3D printing. It approximates surfaces for solid modeling with interactive triangular shapes. The more complex the surface, the more triangles are used.

STL has become the go-to standard for a lot of CAD operations. A good engineer knows how to produce parts of the most complex nature from pretty small files, in this case under five megabytes. STLs can be exported to many solutions, including AutoCAD, ProE, and Inventor.

5. Price

Pricing on 3D printing has dropped significantly. It is believed one day they could be as common as the laptop. You will still need to choose one that aligns with your productions and budget.

There are affordable printers that can be bought for around $150, while the most expensive ones are priced at more than $300,000.


3D printing allows the entrepreneur with the smallest budget to take advantage of the technology. But you need to be aware of the 3D printing methods and how factors like projects, materials, quality and speed can affect productions and pricing. You can explore the technology and be there when mass manufacturing becomes a part of every business that needs a prototype or a home that prints its own food.