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3D Printing FAQs

Josh Judkins
posted this on May 18, 2011 17:35

What is 3D printing?

3D printing is known by many names, additive fabrication, solid free form fabrication, rapid prototyping & more. It is the process of making an object by building very thin layers of material on top of each other. This is the opposite of more traditional manufacturing techniques like carving, machining or laser cutting, where material is removed to create a form.

First the digital 3D model is sliced into super-thin cross sectional layers. The printer then prints these layers, one at a time, from the bottom up until the model is complete. Build or support material (such as a powder or wax) is used to hold parts of your object which overhang, and is cleaned off the final model once it is complete.

How long will my 3D printing order take to arrive?

3D printing orders made from Durable plastic, Superfine plastic and Rainbow plaster will generally be made within one to two weeks. Stainless steel and Gold plate can take a bit longer, often taking between two and four weeks to be made. We will be working to speed up all of these turnaround times in the coming months.

Please note that these making times will start from the date we receive a correctly formatted file. If you submit a 3D design file which requires adjustment, it will not start moving up the queue to be made until it has been correctly revised.

Shipping time depends on your location, but will usually take between one day and one week.

How much will 3D printing my design cost?

The cost is determined by the 3D material type you’ve chosen and the overall dimensions and volume of material used in your design.

Both overall dimensions (making cost) and volume (material cost) are measured in cubic centimeters (cc). These costs are different for each 3D material type, and are outlined in the material catalog.

When you add a 3D material to your STL, DAE or VRML 97 design in your Personal Factory, you'll get an instant online price for how much it will cost to make. If you need to, you can then go back and refine your designs and upload them again.

Why can't I add 3D materials to my design?

At present, 3D materials are only available through the Ponoko USA making location. If you're not based in the USA, you can still make 3D printing orders, but you must change your making location to Ponoko USA and have them shipped internationally.

What size restrictions are there?

The minimum total size for 3D printed objects is 10mm3, and you will get a warning message if one side of your object is less than 10mm.

As a general rule, try to keep objects bigger than 10mm in at least one direction. For example, a long skinny object (like a pen), or a flat thin object (like a business card) will be okay, but an object like a tiny collar button (which is smaller than 10mm x 10mm x 10mm) is likely to be rejected.

The maximum size restriction depends on which material you chose. Check out the specific dimensions in the materials catalog.

What software can I use?

You can create your file in any 3D design software that can export STL, DAE or VRML 97 files.

We have put together some helpful how-to information for the following software:

If there is a different software package you use to export 3D files, send us a how-to guide and we’ll look at adding it to our website, and reward you with a making voucher!

What is 3D printing with Durable plastic via 3D Systems SLS?

Durable plastic objects are made on a 3D Systems Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printing machine. This machine uses a laser beam to fuse small particles of plastic together, layer by layer.

A thin layer of fine plastic powder is spread over the bed of the machine. A laser passes over the powder fusing it together based on a cross section of the 3D model. Once the layer is complete, the bed lowers and a new layer of powder is spread out. The process is repeated until the object is finished. The un-sintered powder acts as a support material which is removed using air when the object is finished.

What is 3D printing with Superfine plastic via 3D Systems ProJet?

Superfine plastic objects are made on a 3D Systems Projet 3D printing machine. These machines work similarly to inkjet printers, but instead of using ink they use resin.

The resin is jetted onto the surface and then cured with a UV light based on a cross section of the 3d model. Once the layer is complete, the object is raised and a new layer of resin is spread out. The process is repeated until the object is finished. Wax support material is printed alongside the plastic and is melted away when the object is finished.

What is 3D printing with Rainbow plaster via ZCorp?

Rainbow plaster objects are made on a ZCorp 3D printing machine. These machines have the ability to print objects in full color. They create each layer by using an inkjet head to deposit binder onto a bed of compacted powder.

A thin layer of powder is spread over the bed of the machine, and is cured based on a cross section of the 3D model. Once the layer is complete, the bed lowers and a new layer of powder is spread out. The process is repeated until the object is finished. After each build, the loose powder is removed leaving only the object remaining. The finished object is then coated in elastomer which gives it extra rigidity.

What is 3D printing with Stainless steel via ProMetal?

Stainless steel objects are made in a 3-step process:

  1. 3D printing in stainless steel - A ProMetal 3D printing machine uses an inkjet head to deposit layers of organic binder onto a stainless steel powder surface to build up the object. After the printing has finished the object is placed in an oven to cure the binder.
  2. Infusion - Excess stainless steel powder is removed, and the object is immersed in a container of bronze powder. This is heated in a furnace to infuse the bronze into the porous stainless steel of the object. This produces a solid metal object that is a hybrid of stainless steel and bronze.
  3. Finishing - The object is bead blasted to smooth the surface after the infusing process.

What is 3D printing with Gold plate via ProMetal?

Gold plate objects are made in a 4-step process:

  1. 3D printing in stainless steel - A ProMetal 3D printing machine uses an inkjet head to deposit layers of organic binder onto a stainless steel powder surface to build up the object. After the printing has finished the object is placed in an oven to cure the binder.
  2. Infusion - Excess stainless steel powder is removed, and the object is immersed in a container of bronze powder. This is heated in a furnace to infuse the bronze into the porous stainless steel of the object. This produces a solid metal object that is a hybrid of stainless steel and bronze.
  3. Finishing - The object is bead blasted to smooth the surface after the infusing process.
  4. Plating - The object then goes through a gold plating process.
 
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