The process of going from an idea to a physical item, of making a product, can happen in several ways. You can form items by machining, or cutting away material. You can create a mould or a cast to pour fluid material into that may harden later. Or, you can try 3D printing. 3D printing is a way of making plastic products relatively quickly and inexpensively. It is a form of additive manufacturing, which means it makes products by adding more material, rather than taking it away like a lathe or a mill. There are a few types of 3D printing, but the most common form is fused deposition modeling. There are others, such as stereolithography, but for this video, we will focus on FDM. There are a lot of benefits to 3D printing versus other manufacturing methods. Like we said before, it’s relatively fast and inexpensive, so it’s often used for prototyping. 3D printing a test version of your product is a lot easier than setting up a traditional manufacturing method to create the product. Most manufacturing methods have an UP-FRONT COST, or a cost to set up the machinery to be able to make your product. This means that it’s not a good idea to prototype using these methods, because every time you make a change to your product, you have to reset the machines and pay the money again. So, if you have access to a printer, 3D printing has no up-front cost; all you need is the material and the time! Another benefit of 3D printing is that you can create your products directly from a 3D model. There are other manufacturing methods that can be computer controlled, but you have more design freedom with additive manufacturing than traditional methods. When you can create your design straight from a 3D model, you have almost all the creative freedom in manufacturing as you have in designing. This allows for some unique and creative designs to come from 3D printing. We use 3D printing here at Limbitless Solutions because it lets us be as creative as we want with our designs. Our mission is to infuse our products with art and creativity to allow our Bionic Kids to express themselves in a unique way. Like we said before, 3D printing has to start with a 3D modeled design. You can design your idea either in a design program, such as Autodesk Maya, or in a CAD program, such as Fusion360. We’ll go over how to create 3D designs in a separate video series. Once you have your design, you have to bring it to another program before you can send it to. be printed This intermediate program is called a printer utility, or a slicer. The slicer is a program that reads a 3D model and converts it into instructions that a printer can read. These instructions are written in G CODE, which is just a way of instructing the printer how to create the product. This program is called a slicer because its main function is to “slice” up the design into layers that will be printed one on top of another. Each layer is like a cross-section of your design. Once you have your product sliced and prepared, you’re ready to start printing! At this point, you’ve had an idea, designed a product in 3D, and converted that 3D model into instructions for the printer to read. Now, it’s time to start printing. Most printers have two major parts: the base and the print head. The base can move up and down, and the print head can move left, right, forward or back. There are, of course, exceptions to this, but most printers work like this. The print head is designed to take material, usually plastic, from a spool, and heat it up enough that the plastic can be pushed through the print head and “drawn” on top of the previous layer. This is called extrusion. The print head draws the shape of each layer one by one, each layer on top of the last. It then lets the new plastic cool off, before beginning the next layer. Over time, the printer stacks all of the design’s layers up until the product is fully built! Once that’s finished, you have your product! Now, there’s a lot more that goes into printing than that. There are variables that control how strong your product is, or how long it will take to print, for example, but that’s a basic overview of how 3D printing works.