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3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing 

3D Printing or Additive manufacturing is a process which is used to make solid objects from a digital file. The creation of this 3D object is achieved by additive processes. In this process successive layers of the material that needs to be printed are laid down till the object is created. 

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Components of a 3D Printer

  • Print Bed​

  • Extruder

  • Hot End

  • Lead Screws/ End Stops 

  • Belts

  • Stepper Motors

  • Frame

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Print Bed

This component of the printer is the one on which the desired component will be printed. In most cases it consists of a glass, a heating element and a material which will help the print stick to the bed properly. 

  1. Heated Bed 

  2. Non-Heated

Most printers today come with a heated bed to prevent the print from warping. Warping is something which happens due to a phenomena known as thermal contraction. This is used to describe the slight contraction of the plastic once it cools down.  

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Extruder

One of the most crucial component of the 3D Printer. This is the area of the printer where the plastic is taken in, melted and pushed out. It is a small component but most of the technology of the printer is located here. In some cases (Direct drive printers) the extruder consists of 2 parts. The hot end and the cold end. The cold end has a motor which pulls the filaments and pushes it out of the hot end. The hot end is the place where the filament is melted and squirted out. 

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Hot End

As explained in the previous section the hot end is where the material is pushed out in molten form. This part of the printer also comprises of various other components namely. 

  1. Heat Sink - This part of the hot end ensures the heat from the nozzle doesn't travel up and melt the filament prematurely. It has a fan to keep it cool. Whenever the nozzle is heated up the heat sink fan should be turned on. 

  2. Heater Cartridge - This is the component which heats up the nozzle. Its a high power resitor in simple terms. 

  3. Thermistor - This is a temperature sensor which is used to determine the temperature of the hot end. 

  4. Nozzle - A simple piece of metal which a small hole (can vary in size) from which the filament comes out.

  5. Layer Cooling fan - This fan contributes by cooling the hot plastic as soon as it is deposited.This helps the object to retain its shape. This shouldn't be confused with the heat sink fan.  

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Belts

Belts are one of the most cruical component of the printer since they are responsible for moving things. The X and Y motors have sprockets which drive the belts. Most of the printers nowadays have ways to adjust the tension of the belt. 

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Stepper Motors

These motors are not like regular DC motors. DC motors rotate continuously when given power. Stepper motors are different because they rotate in increments. This incremental rotation allows gives them a more precise control over their position. Most 3D printers use NEMA 17 type motors with 200 increments (Steps) per revolution.  

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Frame

The part of the printer that holds everything together and in place. Early printers had the frames made from plywood. Modern day printers have parts made from sheet metal, aluminum beams or plastic. Nowdays, most printers have parts printed for themselves. The more rigid the frame the more precision the printer will be able to print with.