How does 3D printing work?
3D printing is not as complicated as it might first appear. Users simply start by designing an object on an ordinary PC, which is then connected to a 3D printer - and voila.
The 3D printing process sees an object turned into thousands of tiny slices, which are produced from the bottom upwards in a method known as fused deposition modelling (FDM). These slices bond together to form a solid object. Each individual layer has the potential to be incredibly complex, which means 3D printers can even create moving parts including hinges or wheels.
A typical 3D printer is similar to an inkjet printer, but instead of using ink, which would never build upwards to much volume, the device extrudes layers of molten plastic or powder and fuses them together using adhesive or ultraviolet light.
Most 3D printers use polylactic acid (PLA) filament, which is a type of biodegradable plastic, or a slightly stronger plastic called acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Some of the newer filaments utilise nylon, wood or metal-filled plastic. There are several factors that determine the types of filament a printer can use, including the nozzle temperature, the build-platform material and whether the build platform is heated.