3D Printing Basics and Beginner's Resource

What is 3D Printing?

The most common type of 3D printing for desktop printers is fused deposition modeling (FDM). This type of 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that lays down material in small horizontal layers. The printer knows what to print through the use of a digital file, which can be created through 3D modeling software or by using a 3D scanner to copy an existing object. A slicer software program then takes this 3D model and converts it into a number of horizontal slices to make up the whole 3D printed object. This sliced model is then transferred to a CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software program. The CAM converts the digital sliced object into movements that the printer can follow to print an object. The accumulation of these layers eventually creates the finished object. Even though these objects are built off of one layer to another, in most cases you can’t even notice the layers from the naked eye.


Why 3D Print?

With the price point of 3D printers dropping to affordable levels, it is now possible for anyone to create anything they want without relying on the education of an engineering degree or the tools of grandpa’s self-made garage machine shop. 3D printing enables creating items without having to produce at a scale that would make creating parts financially viable. This means proof-of-concept, prototypes, and customized objects can all be produced at a fraction of the cost compared to typical starting manufacturing costs. Don’t want to learn how to use solid modeling software? No problem, check out Thingiverse, GrabCAD, Pinshape, or Shapeways to view multiple CAD catalogs to draw inspiration to create or improve models.  Whether you want to design a new cell phone case or need a customized dog collar or are inspired to take on a project creating a life sized Iron Man suit, 3D printing allows you to succeed in projects that is only limited by your creativity.


3D Printing Uses

  • Handyman – create quick fixes around the house
  • Learn by doing – a great opportunity for you and those around you to learn about manufacturing, engineering, architecture, inventing, prototyping, and so many more life-essential skills
  • Save money – 3D printing allows for prototyping and manufacturing of items at a much lower cost compared to today’s typical methods
  • Entrepreneur – whether you work for an established company or are trying to start your own, 3D printers are an invaluable asset to assist you in succeeding in cost-sensitive but results driven projects
  • The cool teacher – are you a teacher and want to inspire the next generation of students to become active in their own learning? Well not only can they learn about the direct subjects involved with 3D printing (computers, software, manufacturing, material properties, engineering, etc.) but now you can create physical models to bring other subjects to life (anatomical models for biology or molecular models for chemistry)


What Printing Material Should I Use?

Currently, the most common 3D printing filament materials used at home are PLA and ABS. Why? Because they are cheap, fairly easy to use, and produce prints suitable to fulfill your creative imagination. Based off of our printing experience, we recommend both new and experienced users to use PLA. PLA is an easier material to start off with and comes with a quicker learning curve. For complete coverage, take a look at our PLA vs. ABS page.


What is PLA?

PLA stands for polylactic acid and is a thermoplastic polyester (which is a moldable material that consists of repeatable molecular subunits). Our PLA is actually a biodegradable material made from natural resources (we use corn starch but you can also use other plant based materials such as sugarcane or tapioca roots) and is environmentally friendly. Don’t let this scare you off as a printing material, PLA is a strong and durable material to use for a variety of printing needs. Typically, PLA is used for everyday items such as food containers and, since it is nontoxic, it is also a popular choice for medical applications such as sutures and stents. Need more in-depth information, learn from our PLA Beginners Information page.


What is ABS?

ABS stands for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and is a thermoplastic polymer (meaning, like PLA, a moldable material that consists of repeatable molecular subunits). ABS’s most notable properties are its impact resistance and toughness (it is what Lego bricks are made up of after all). For everyday uses, you can find ABS in toys, luggage, and even the keys in your computer’s keyboard.


Can I Only Depend on PLA Filament?

Yes, we decided to manufacturer PLA 3D printer filament at ProMolt 3D because we believe it’s the best choice for the greatest number of printers – whether you are a professional, hobbyist, or halfway in between.



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