3D printing software is also known as additive manufacturing (AM) or additive layer manufacturing (ALM) is the industrial production. It is a computer-controlled process that prints real-life three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file by depositing materials, usually in layers.
The software breaks down a 3D model into different sections and these sections allow a 3D printer to develop the object piece by piece. The software is normally used in creative studios and maker spaces with 3D printers to print real-life 3D designs. Usually, 3D printing software works with 3D design software or general-purpose CAD software.
The software translates the object into data in terms of instructions that the 3D printer can easily understand and then solidify material to print various parts of a 3D object in real life. It uses thin layers of materials such as powder, solid, and liquid forms.
The 3D printing process brings together the thin layers of various materials, normally one layer above the other in a horizontally cross-sectional format, different from subtractive manufacturing methods. This process is known as Additive Manufacturing or freeform fabrication.
3D printing software repairs and edit various types of file formats, like STL and OBJ. The tool prints 3D objects easily and quickly in step by step process at any point in the given design operation. This procedure inevitably undergoes many changes and also ensures a higher design quality for its final product. They always use a physical reference for their 3D designs.
Additive manufacturing software has opportunities in almost all sectors. It has several potential benefits over the other conventional subtractive manufacturing technologies.
The 3D printing solution is commonly used for prototyping, tooling, and manufacturing of end-user functional parts for various untapped industries such as automotive, aerospace and defense, printed electronics, architecture and construction, government and military, healthcare, tooling and machines, energy, art, jewelry, consumer goods, education, food and more. The following image shows the applications of additive manufacturing in various industries vertical –
Regardless of this, the high cost of materials and its limited availability, restricted product size, ensuring product quality, lacking standard process control, and the threat of copyright violation are the same challenges that are holding back the growth of 3D printing solutions.
3D printing software in the manufacturing field
For 3D printing, the components are developed directly from a digital construction plan. The trend for the application of 3D printing solutions is shifting from prototyping to the final production of functional parts which are used directly in various verticals.
3D printing software offers several benefits over the conventional production technique methods such as low manufacturing and supply chain management costs, fast delivery time, less number of manufacturing steps for customized and complex products, and a high number of efficiency in production due to minimum material and energy consumption.
The software can prints various parts and complete products on-site and the enterprises do not need to spend time and money to ship those parts into their location.
The 3D printing technology revolutionizes the manufacturing process along with reducing product development costs and overall assembly-line production costs. The software develops specialized and bespoke geometries which are particularly used for manufacturing experiment-based components in research labs. It also helps manufacturers to design and fabricate lightweight and complex parts at a lower cost.
The 3D printing solution used in manufacturing applications offers a decentralized and geographically independent distributed production process. The distributed manufacturing solution is especially used in some enterprises where they perform cloud-based service-oriented networked production models such as Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) to print different parts.
Additive manufacturing is an advanced technology in which different parts are molded into specified forms without using molds. Until the development of 3D printing solutions, the higher cost of developing molds to produce a low volume of components through conventional manufacturing was not viable in terms of profitability.
In addition to low-volume production, 3D printing software manufactures custom-modified components and less-weight robotic parts quickly and accurately. The production of these robotic parts requires customization for various use cases which are costly to develop.
Examples of these parts include advanced medical devices such as surgical instruments, implants, respirator masks, and hearing aids; drilling component guides for various operations; helmets and shoes for sports professional persons; and others.
The 3D printing solution for automotive parts manufacturing provides a scope for the production of lightweight auto spare parts, tooling, headlight housing for high-priced cars, steering components, fixtures, injection molding, specialty machines, and more, with minimum run time.
The manufacturing of lightweight components for aircraft and automobiles is a key application area for additive manufacturing. The manufacturing of lightweight components used in the transportation industry helping them to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
Nowadays, the printing solution is used in the food industry for squeezing out a large number of foods, layer by layer, into 3D objects such as chocolates and candy, crackers, pasta, and pizza, etc.
Tips on how to improve 3D print quality using 3D printing software
The following best practices make it easy for anyone to create high-quality 3D printed objects to a whole new level. Many companies use additive manufacturing for prototyping or manufacturing of production parts. This is a computer-based process that sets down layer after layer of a product till it is complete.
There are many factors to deal with the accomplishment of 3D printing challenges and solutions. There are plenty of components necessary for 3D printers’ central function. The design of the object itself is challenging. Every machine is different, filaments differ by type and color, and there are lots of print settings to pull off. On the brighter side, there is a large number of opportunities to improve the finished quality of your 3D prints.
The 3D printer capabilities are maximized by integrating additional tools, optimizing print quality settings, and simply troubleshooting the printer itself for providing more control over the 3D printer’s performance.
Perfect quality print requires patience and at the same time ignoring any other obstacles of the 3D printers will lead to a decrease in your printer’s print speed. Without taking any proper steps, optimizing the printer will forbid print strength, durability, and smoothness.
Level the bedplate and adjust the nozzle height
To improve the quality of a 3D print you need to make sure that the bed is completely leveled and its filament nozzle distance is properly set above the bed (this is known as the Z offset). Almost nearly many printers accompany with a recommended distance between bed and nozzle.
To level the bed manually, you can use a simple piece of the paper sheet or feeler gauge to find out the distance between the nozzle and bed at various points and set the distance. When the nozzle is properly positioned, the gauge or paper should slide back underneath the nozzle without force. Repeat this process at least two or three times to ensure accuracy and operating well.
Adjust the Temperature of the Nozzle
The temperature of the nozzle directly affects the appearance of the final print. If the nozzle temperature is too hot, it could leave filament strings between separate parts. When printing tall pieces, inadequate cooling or high temperature can melt the top layer and result in the deformity of the final print.
When printing a taller object, add a one-centimeter dice on the reverse side of the build plate in your printer. This takes out the hot nozzle from the print between layers and allows the nozzle to cool.
Controlling the temperature of the build plate usually helps in print adhesion and forbids other defects. When the bed temperature is too high, the print appears messy and droopy. This is an indication to slightly reduce the bedplate temperature for the next print.
Build an Enclosure
Another method to improve your 3D printer’s print quality is to create an enclosure for your 3D printer. A fundamental shelter out of plyboard and plexiglass is sufficient for maintaining the cooling effect on your printer’s nozzle. This enclosure prevents the outside temperature and airflows from affecting the printer although keeping the heat stored within the space.
Use different building plates to create different effects
Different build plates create different textures on the bottom of the print object. The different bed materials such as glass, PEI (Polyetherimide) sheets, or Kapton tape normally have a smooth surface, while painter’s tape or glue-on polycarbonate sheets leave a matte finish.
If you are using a spray or glue as an adhesive on the surface, use just enough to cover the plate. Using too much glue or spray deforms the object and creates gouges. These make it difficult to remove the object from the plate, and forcing it off could damage the object or if enough pressure is used, warp or break the plate.
Play around and experiment with different surfaces and adhesives to determine which method is the best way to create a surface finish that best compliments the print.
Pay close attention to printer’s adjustment and keep up with maintenance
Every 3D printer has its stand-out features and techniques that need attention to get better print quality and maintenance for the best printing solution. The preventive maintenance tasks involve many smalls steps, like keeping the bed clean, leveling the bed regularly, calibrating the extruder, and lubricating the printers’ rails as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
If the 3D printer uses two stepper motors for the Z-axis, regularly check that the gantry is at the same height on both sides. Also, you need to ensure whether there are any weak spots in the frame. If you are still facing any inexplicable quality issues, see if there is any form of shimmy anywhere in the frame. Tighten all bolts and belts and ensure the updated firmware from the manufacturer’s website.
Handle the filament material carefully
Another way for improving 3D printers’ print quality is properly caring for filament material and handle them with due care. Most popular filaments are hydrophilic which means they absorb water from the surrounding air. This can create printing problems. Exposed filaments like nylon, ABS, and flexible materials, absorb moisture, leading to printing problems.
Damp filaments elaborate during extrusion as the water turns into steam and escapes from the plastic. The filament material often pops or crackles as it moves through the 3D printer’s nozzle, and the smoky particles are observed as the steam escapes.
The print will appear rough when finished with this process. If there is any problem, you can dry up the filament on the spool in the oven at low temperatures for few hours or you can store filament spools in plastic bins with a silica gel desiccant between uses to maintain its dryness.
Take the time to learn and understand all the slicer settings at your disposal
A slicer converts 3D models into the instruction sets (G-code) that operate the printer. There are many slicers available in the market, which are free. If you are looking for a particular feature, you might need to purchase from the market. A slicer controls the printer’s movement and temperature.
If the print quality is not good enough, adjust the slicer’s hyper or fine quality setting. Analyze and research the problem, then change slicer settings gradually one at a time. Keep printing and see if it helps. Slicers have many settings. Finding out the possibilities of all the different settings will help to improve print quality.
The 3D printer needs a layer of melted filament that bonds the layer below it. If there is no layer below for it to bond with, your printer will not work. When a bridge is too long or the overhang is too high there is a complete failure of the print process. If you add and activate different types of customized supports that suit different slicers, a whole host of additional settings can squeeze to get a perfect print solution.
Adjust the printing speed and movement
The print quality of your final product is usually going down as the speed and movement are reduced. Lowering the printing speed, ensure that the extruder has the space to move so the printed area could not overheat or cause any other quality problems.
Post-processing printing parts
After the object is printed, don’t forget to post-process your printing parts such as removing supports or getting rid of small imperfections with sandpaper or a small sharp hobby knife. Some plastics, such as ABS parts, work very well with an acetone vapor treatment that results in a smooth and shiny finish.
However, this process weakens the model as it dissolves the plastic. Composite plastics, like brass or copper-infused plastics, have improved some sanding and special metal treatment to get a tarnished look.
There are many other ways to make your prints look even more catchy and impressive. Do not expect to print perfect products in few trials. Take care of your filament martial and when quality problems arise, review your settings and make the necessary adjustments. Every print is a learning opportunity.