3D printing (3DP) is a very useful tool for those working in machinery revamping. It is increasingly used in workshops and makerspaces all around the world.

3D printing is a general term for a set of technologies that can build three-dimensional objects from a digital file by adding material layer after layer. Nowadays, there are many 3DP technologies available based on different approaches and making use of various materials (plastic, metal, concrete, chocolate, etc.). Among these, Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) is the most popular and most affordable. FDM creates objects by melting a plastic wire (called filament) and applying it, layer after layer, through a heated nozzle. A FDM 3D printer is shown in the picture below.

Figure 1 – FDM 3D printer. Source: Ludor Engineering

3D printing involves the use of a computer, a digital 3D model, a 3D printing slicer software, a 3D printer and filament. Typically, a 3DP process is composed from the following steps:

1. The digital model of the object to be 3D printed is created by 3D modelling or 3D scanning. Alternatively, it can be downloaded from a 3D model repository like www.thingiverse.com 

2. If necessary, the digital model is translated into a 3D printing file, usually a STL type.

3. The 3D printing file is prepared for printing, process finalised with the generation of a file (named G-code) that includes all the instructions needed by 3D printer to build the part.

4. The G-code file is run on the 3D printer and the part is created.

5. If necessary, the part is finished (cleaned, polished, painted, etc.).

Figure 2 – 3DP process steps. Source: Ludor Engineering

The “Experts Program Toolkit” developed by the partners of project “Refitting Machine – Arduino expert for the recovery of obsolete machines” includes a chapter dedicated to 3DP as well as 3DP workshops and useful resources related to 3DP. All of these will be soon available on our website https://refittingmachine.eu/.

What is 3D printing and how it works?
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