What is 3D printing and what do you need to get started with


What is 3D printing and what do you need to get started with

You may have heard the term 3D printing or 3D printing while watching a video clip of a field. Yes, this is true. One field, not a field. This is due to the fact that the 3D printer has become used in a huge number of different fields.

Personally, I watched videos in which this technology was used to print models, toys, prosthetic limbs, and much more. This technology has often puzzled me; How does it work and what materials are used in it? Can individuals own a 3D printer?

Allow me to share with you all the information I have found about this modern print making things in this article.

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What is 3D printing?

3D printing or 3D printing is also called additive manufacturing; It is an industrial process based on making things by building successive layers that eventually lead to the formation of something three-dimensional. It's a lot like you're painting layers on top of each other with a thick texture until it's a 3D tactile component.

3D printing relies on 3D designs that are designed through computer programs, and when the printer recognizes them, it creates them through the raw material in it.

Subtractive manufacturing technology is used in most industries that we all know, where large components are used and cut, cut and shaped appropriately to produce the final product, while in 3D printing, very thin layers are made in succession in a certain way to form the final product.

Imagine having a machine that can make anything you can imagine. No, this is not a dream, it is a reality achieved by 3D printers.

Now you may be wondering; How does the printer know the order of the layers to make the look you want? This is done by following the design on a special file that was designed on the computer in one of the famous design programs such as Blender.

The printer receives the design file of the shape to be printed and then prints it layer by layer until it appears in the same shape as the design, of course the design must be 3D, and we will explain later how you can get these designs easily.

The field of 3D printing is full of promising opportunities, this technology is currently used in vital fields such as engineering, electronics and medicine, and it is expected that this technology will develop to be able to manufacture more vital things such as human organs in the near future.

How is 3D printing done?

The process of printing shapes or making things with 3D printers consists of the following stages:

1. Get the design

Getting the design to be printed can be done in more than one way. You can design it yourself through well-known programs in the field of 3D design, or you can download it from one of the sites specialized in providing these designs.

The most important 3D graphics design software:

Some of these programs are completely free, such as Blender. It is also very easy to use these programs, and there are programs that provide entire sections on their sites to teach you how to use them and design 3D graphics with them.

As for the most important sites that provide ready-made 3D designs for free, they are:

These sites provide a huge number of 3D design files in various fields in the STL format for this field.

2. Convert the design into layers or slices (also called slicing)

Slicing is an essential step in the 3D printing process. This step explains to the printer how the shape will be built and printed in steps that the printer can perform.

Usually most design programs do slicing as well, however there are programs dedicated to performing this step professionally.

The most important programs with which you can slice 3D designs are:

Most of the previous programs also perform a function other than slicing, which is to repair corrupted Slicing files.

Sometimes when extracting designs files from design programs, these files are damaged in one way or another. This damage prevents printing these designs and converting them into three-dimensional shapes, and therefore they must be repaired or modified, which is provided by previous programs.

3. Print design

Now the 3D printer software loads the design and prints it slice on top of the other.

Every 3D printer has its own software. This software is either preloaded on a storage unit that you get with the printer, or you can download it through the printer's official website.

The printer relies on the software to print the shape designed according to the printer's work style. 3D printing methods are multiple and usually do not differ in the method of printing as much as they differ in the method of dealing with the material used to print the shapes, as we will explain later.

Important note: The previous steps are the basic steps in the 3D printing process for designs and shapes, and there are sub-steps that may interfere with these steps, such as configuring the 3D designs to go with the printing process.

Also, you may need to adjust basic printer settings (such as speed and temperature). Finally, some veteran users adjust advanced settings (such as flow and slide size). These are minor steps, but they are intended to print the shapes in the best possible way.

What are the most popular 3D printing methods?

1. Fused Deposition Modeling

And its abbreviation FDM is the most popular 3D printing method. In this method, the material used in printing flows through a tube that is heated to melt the material, and then pushed through a thin hole in order to print the designed shape.

The previous process is repeated in a slide style, so that a slide is printed on top of the other horizontally until the shape is finished.

2. Stereolithography

Stereolithography, or SLA, is the oldest method of 3D printing. This method relies on mirrors known as galvanometers, one placed horizontally and the other vertically.

The mirrors shine a laser beam on a container containing a resin material (printer material), and when the beam hits this material, it turns from a liquid state to a solid state to be sculpted layer upon layer to print the shape.

Stereolithography can print details of shapes more accurately than fused deposition.

3. Digital Light Processing

 Digital Light Processing or DLP is very similar to Stereolithography. The main difference between the two methods is that the former relies on a digital optical projector that flashes one image per layer (or several flashes for larger portions) of the shape being printed.

Since the display device is a digital screen, the image of each layer is made up of square pixels. This method of printing in which each layer or slice is made up of small rectangular blocks called voxel.

4. Masked Stereolithography

Masked Stereolithography MSLA uses an array of light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, as the light source.

In this method, UV rays are projected through a screen that displays a single slice as a mask over this screen. Similar to DLP 3D printing, each mask's images are displayed digitally, and consist of square pixels whose size determines the resolution of the print.

The biggest difference between DLP and MSLA based printers; is that the latter uses an array of hundreds of individual emitters rather than a single light source such as a laser diode or a DLP lamp.

5. Selective Laser Sintering

Printers using Selective Laser Sintering

 X-rays to melt the printing material powder to turn it into a three-dimensional shape, printing by the method of selective laser sintering is one of the latest methods of 3D printing.

Selective Laser Sintering Method

 It is considered one of the cheapest technologies in this field, which makes it suitable for personal use.

What are the advantages of 3D printing?

There are several advantages to making things through a 3D printer, the most important of which are:

1. Flexibility

3D printing technology has made it possible to make things that are difficult to make using traditional methods and equipment, for example, the accuracy that works with this technology enabled it to make models that contain minute details that are impossible to implement with ordinary industrial methods and machines.

Ordinary factory machines are difficult to modify in their performance and details of their implementation of shapes, any modification to the shape of the manufactured product requires modifications to the machines themselves and this is expensive and cannot be completed easily.

As for the designs of 3D shapes, it is easy to modify and change them. This means that if you want to modify the shape that you want to print at any time, you can do so easily, quickly and without complications, as the modification here will be done on the design only, not the printer.

2. Opportunities to produce new products

A variety of materials can be used to make things through 3D printing, some of which are difficult to use in other ways and sometimes impossible.

For example 3D printers can use the following materials to print things:

  • plastic.
  • metals.
  • ingredients.
  • live cells.

The first three materials need giant machines and specific conditions to be able to manufacture products based on them in the usual ways, this determines the designs of products that can be made from these materials, while living cells are impossible to use in industry by traditional methods.

As for the use of these same materials in the 3D printer, it can be completed easily and at any time and does not require specific circumstances. This removes the restrictions of creativity from the minds of product designers and gives them freedom to design them, resulting in new products.

3. Cost

Making things through 3D printing is relatively cheap in more ways than one. While traditional machines need huge amounts of fuel and electricity to run, 3D printers only need a certain amount of electricity, much less than those machines need to produce products.

Also, traditional manufacturing methods waste large amounts of materials. This does not happen with the industry through 3D printing, as printers that work in this method use the quantities of materials they need to implement product designs accurately and only when needed.

Finally, 3D printing does not require the presence of a human element to monitor or interfere with product design processes in any other way. The presence of a human element in the manufacture of products would increase the cost of products and thus reduce them.

4. Speed

Making things using 3D printing is faster than what is done by other traditional methods, for example the use of food ingredients in printing enabled them to make ready-to-eat foods in a matter of seconds.

Another hidden aspect of 3D printing's speed advantage over traditional industry is the ability to quickly prototype.

Any product that needs a prototype or what is known as a Prototype, on the basis of which industry machines are designed to be able to manufacture, usually takes a long time to manufacture the prototype because it may be done manually.

As for the design of prototypes through 3D printing, it is faster because it is done through automated printers that implement it in minutes.

5. Quality

The above advantages are positively reflected on the quality of the products that are made through this technology. Factors such as less wasted resources and flexibility in manufacturing contribute to the production of high quality products.

Also, the accuracy of the 3D printing process results in products and shapes that rarely have manufacturing defects.

6. Volume and area

3D printers are smaller than most machines in the industry and therefore occupy less space, making these printers practical for a wide variety of user groups.

For personal use, you don't need an entire room in your house to house a 3D printer, printers that individuals can own range in size from small (with dimensions as large as standard office paper printers) to medium.

As for the sizes of printers that factories depend on, they are considered to be significantly smaller than industrial machines. The small size results in the exploitation of less space, which allows owning a large number of printers and increasing production at rates that may exceed their counterparts for large machines.

3D printing uses

There are a large number of areas that rely heavily on 3D printers, and here are the most important ones:

1. Medicine

3D printing is used in medicine in more than one way. The most famous use of this technology may be in the manufacture of artificial limbs, but it is not the only use.

A team of researchers was recently able to manufacture a new type of heart valve using 3D printing technology. This valve will give the patient's cells the ability to form new cells that help in the heart transplant process.

This potential may not seem huge, but it holds promise for what 3D printing can achieve in the field of making living organs. The researchers believe that printing whole organs with this technology is achievable soon, noting that 3D printing accepts living cells as a material for printing.

2. Engineering

The 3D printer is distinguished in several engineering fields such as electronics engineering, architecture, and others.

Printers with this technology can print delicate electronic parts such as plates, electrical resistors, and sensors.

In the field of architecture, this technique is used in the manufacture of prototypes and experiments on new materials for use in construction.

Engineering is one of the areas that benefit most from 3D printing technology.

3. Cooking and food making

The use of 3D printing in the production of foods and foods began as a kind of experiment and joke, but it developed a lot later. Currently, 3D printers are widely used in the manufacture of completely new food items.

Have you ever had a steak made with all-vegetarian ingredients but tasted the same as the real thing? Scientists have used plant proteins to engineer and manufacture several products with different foods, the most famous of which is beef, to experiment with this technology in providing alternative solutions to animal production.

4. Auto

The automotive parts industry is one of the first areas in which multiple applications of 3D printing technology have emerged, and this field is also considered one of the areas that has increased its use and dependence on this technology rapidly in the past three years.

Some applications of 3D printing technology in the automotive parts industry:

Manufacture of prototypes for parts.

Manufacture of small parts.

Manufacture of small parts for classic cars and discontinued cars.

Giant companies (such as the German company Ford) rely on 3D printing mainly in the manufacture of some components of their cars.

Experts in the automotive industry believe that reliance on this industry will increase, and soon it will be able to manufacture larger parts and parts.

Read also: What is digital drawing, its most important tools and programs, and how to learn it

What do I need to get started in 3D printing?

If you review the steps of the 3D printing process that we explained at the beginning of the article, you will conclude that you need the following to enter this field:

1. Computer

A computer is necessary to be able to create and manage a 3D design and control your printer, there are no special specifications for the required computer components. Just make sure that the capabilities of the computer you intend to use are capable of running 3D design programs.

Read also : Installing Windows 11 on Old Devices (How to Prepare Your Device for Windows 11)

2. Software

Program for designing 3D graphics.

Program for design anatomy.

A program for managing the printer and executing print commands.

The design and anatomy programs can be dispensed with if you are going to rely on a design from one of the sites we mentioned earlier, these sites often provide designs ready for printing directly.

As for the software for the printer, it is either an accessory with it or available on its official website, as we explained previously.

3. 3D printer

Talking about the best 3D printers may need a separate article, however, the sites specialized in this field recommend several excellent printers, and we chose them:

  • Creality Ender 3
  • Anycubic Kobra
  • Elegoo Saturn S
  • Ender 5 Plus

Of course, we recommend looking at all the information about previous printers and watching videos about them before making a purchase decision. For information, the prices of previous printers range from 250 to 550 dollars, which is a suitable price for this category of printers.

4. The material used in 3D printing

The choice of material for 3D printing depends on the resulting products you want to print. More specifically, you need these materials in pictures and with certain specifications to print the shapes you want in terms of texture, color, flexibility, and others.

Also, the image on which the material itself (liquid or semi-solid, for example) depends on the way your printer works, as we explained earlier.

Here are some examples of materials used in 3D printing in general, and the materials needed to produce products from it:

a) Plastic products are based on materials such as:

  •  Polylactic acid.
  •  Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene.
  •  Polyvinyl Alcohol Plastic.

b) Metal products can be printed using one of the following materials:

  • Iron.
  • Nickel.
  • gold.

Review your printer information for the materials you support to use in 3D printing.

Finally, owning a 3D printer is not a matter of entertainment, but it has many other benefits such as building shapes for the purpose of learning or creating a special project for profit through 3D printing for individuals and companies, which is a new profit area worth studying by the way.


In this article, we tried to briefly explain the 3D printing technology without going into its complex technical details.

This technology is spreading at a rapid rate around us, and while you may not see its applications in your neighborhood store now, I can assure you that you will depend on one of their products for the coming years.

Have you used 3D printing or seen any object or product made with this technology before? Share with us in the comments what you think of this technology, and how it can be used in the future.

Mahmoud Ashour
By : Mahmoud Ashour
Mahmoud ashour

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