What is a 3D Printer, and what does it do?

In this section we will try to sort out different terms and techniques that are used in 3D Printing “world” today.
There´s a lot of different names, expressions and techniques, but it´s not as hard as it sounds. Most printers work in the same way.

If we start with the most common used printer type, the ones that use plastic filament. These printers are the easiest to use, don´t need separate exhaust solutions and with the right filament and knowledge, they can produce fantastic prints.

Some variations you will encounter when you are looking for a printer are:

  • FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication)
  • FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling)
  • LPD (Layer Plastic Deposition)

The techniques above have different names but basically do the same thing. A printer takes a solid thread of filament, melt and extrudes it onto a build plate. Simple, right?
Let’s take it from the beginning and if you like more information about different printers and filament you can find it in the section “tips before you buy”

“If I want to create my own designs? Is it difficult?

The first process in any print is the object itself. You can either design it yourself or download a “ready to go” model.
To get started with your own design is easier than one may think. Here are some examples of popular design software to get you started.

“Ok, got it. But if I don´t want to make the design myself, how do I find something to print?”

In case you don´t want, or don´t feel ready, to make your own designs – don´t worry. There are literally tens of thousands models ready do use, and most of them are free. Some places where you can download a lot of models are:

Once you have a model, whether of you own design or downloaded, it´s time to open it with the software that came with the printer. There´s always a software included with the printer, so that is nothing you have to think about.
It´s in the slicer (that the software is called) where you prepare your print. It´s actually pretty similar to a regular ink printer. You make the settings for resolution, print speed etc. Like a regular printer it will take longer time if you choose a higher resolution as it effects the print speed. When you have used your printer for a while you will learn what resolution that works the best for your filament and needs.

The slicer does what it´s called. It takes a model and “slices it” in thin layers. Once you transfer (mini SD card is the most common way) the print file to the printer and press start the printer will make all necessary adjustments and initiate the print.

The plastic that are used with a 3D Printer is called filament and there are many different types with different properties, depending on what it will be used for. If you want to know more about different filament types, you can take a look in our Filament Guide.

The most common used material is PLA and this is also the filament type we use in our examples. PLA is relatively cheap, have no unpleasant smell or any hazardous fumes. and can be used with almost any printer on the market.

When the printer is working its magic, it will heat up the filament to a liquid state and then extrude it through the nozzle. By the time the filament is being extruded it has reached a temperature of 180-220°C, so it´s very hot.
The printer extrudes the filament in layers and shapes it into a 3d printed copy of the model you prepared. The filament is held in place by the heat and as it cools down it will harden and create a very strong, smooth surface.