How Does 3D Printing Work?

We all are used to the regular paper-based 2D printing, but the 3D printing process and 3D printed objects are certainly some of the most astounding inventions of this generation.

There are a lot of people who are looking forward to buying a 3D printer right now. If you are also one of the many users that are searching for a decent 3D printing printer, you should read this article until the end.

Here, we will talk about the basic working of a 3D printer and explain how it prints a 3D object. Here, you can understand the working principle of a 3D printer and decide which particular option is perfect according to your needs.

But before we move to the working of a 3D printer, let’s try to understand what 3D printing is and what benefits it provides for personal as well as professional use.

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing is a recently invented technology that utilizes the CAD (computer-aided design) software to create a digital 3D model on a computer and then generates the product according to the 3D design on the printer workbench.

Most of the time, you will find 3D printing labeled as an “additive manufacturing” method. This is because unlike traditional manufacturing methods that remove material from raw workpieces, 3D printing works on the principle of adding material to generate the final object.

In the beginning, 3D printing was only used for plastic-based objects as the 3D printing machines were only capable of utilizing plastic and similar filaments for printing the objects. But now, you will find industrial 3D printers that can even print metal and other similar hard material objects without any problem. As the machine simply follows the design provided in the digital format, there is little to no chance of error in a 3D printer.

Also, the limit of complicated designs that can be printed by a 3D printer is only limited to how complicated designs you can generate in the digital format. Once the file is fully generated in the required 3D printing format, the machine manages to decode the object into several layers and prints it on the workbench quite easily.

How Does 3D Printing Work?

Now that you have a general idea about what 3D printing is, let’s talk about what goes into a 3D printer so that it generates a three-dimensional object with such ease. There are a couple of steps involved in 3D printing. To understand the working of 3D printing, we will have to understand all these basic steps carefully.

Here are multiple stages of 3D printing:

Stage #1: Creation of 3D CAD file

A 3D file is crucial to print a 3D object as it is the only reference available for the machine to follow. There are multiple ways you can generate the 3D file of the object that you want to print in a 3D printer.

  • Designing it in software.
  • Scanning an existing object and converting that into a 3D file.
  • Downloading a ready-made 3D file from the internet.

In any way, you will have access to a 3D file and you can proceed with the printing.

Stage #2: Generation of the STL file

The 3D file that we just obtained needs to be in a format that is accepted by the 3D printer. Most 3D printers utilize the “STL” file format. The STL file converter breaks down the CAD design into a minuscule triangular mesh. This data describes the layout of the 3D object in a layer by layer format which is required for the 3D printer.

For some advanced machines, you will find the STL file generator built into the unit that converts the file perfectly according to the machine’s requirements. These requirements change in terms of the maximum number of triangles per design, size of the object, the minimum thickness of each layer, and many other parameters.

Stage #3: Slicing of STL file

Now that the STL file has been generated, it needs to be sliced to generate the layer data. This can either be done manually by using special software, or it can be performed automatically if your 3D printer supports that. In any case, no coding knowledge is required at all at any point in the 3D printing process.

Once the STL file is properly sliced, the 3D printer gets step by step information about the procedure it needs to follow to create the object. In case you are doing the slicing part by yourself, you can adjust a lot of parameters inside the software to get the best results according to your machine.

Stage #4: Generation of 3D object

Now that machine has all of the data it requires, it will start printing the object as soon as you give the start command. The printing is performed by a moving nozzle that dispenses semi-solid filament on the working space that is converted into sturdy solid form as soon as it is dispensed on the bed. This happens because of the sudden change in the temperature of the filament.

The nozzle moves in the prescribed direction, generating a layer of the object. Once a single layer is created, the deposition of the material is stopped and the nozzle moves to the beginning position of the consequent layer.

Stage #5: Separating the result from the printer workbench

After all of the layers are perfectly deposited by the nozzle, the deposition of the material stops completely and the part is generated. But, removing the part from the 3D printer is somehow a difficult step. This is because the plastic sometimes gets stuck to the bed or the nozzle and it can critically damage the part if not removed correctly.

Stage #6: Final touches

Once you manage to remove the part from the printer safely, you will find little spots and irregularities on its outer surface. While the dimensions of the objects remain identical to the dimensions provided in the 3D design, the printer generates minor errors because of external factors such as wind and vibrations. These errors need to be clearer to generate a clean surface and texture over the 3D printed object.

3D Printing Industry

3D printing is probably the only manufacturing technology that has such a high adoption rate. Currently, 3D printing is being used in a lot of different industries and continuously generating newer applications that are benefitting in various industries. There was a time when 3D printing was only preferred for basic applications and prototyping. But now, there have been a lot of upgrades in the 3D printing technologies and hence, it is slowly converting into a sole production method.

Here are some major examples of 3D printing in industrial applications:

  • Generation of basic consumer products
  • Generation of simple industrial products
  • Various applications in dentistry
  • Great way to generate prosthetic organs
  • Considerable benefits in the medical industry
  • Decent addition in the construction field

Examples of 3D Printing

Here are a few objects that can be generated via 3D printing:

  • Prosthetic limbs and other body parts
  • 3D structures and models of construction projects
  • Complex shaped food printed by edible filament
  • Fully functional firearms and military equipment
  • Molds and dies used in the manufacturing industry
  • Self-designed musical instruments
  • Decorative artificial items
  • Medicines and other shells of drugs
  • Different parts used in robotics
  • Shoes, purse, and many other consumer products

Apart from these examples, you are capable of printing almost anything that you can design on 3D modeling software. Also, you can simply take a look at different community websites sourced by 3D printing enthusiasts to take inspiration as well as pre-generated 3D files to print in your 3D printer.

Materials Can Be Used In 3D Printing

As technology has evolved into a lot of different forms, it allows a variety of materials that can generate much sturdier and rigid 3D printing results. Here are some familiar materials used for 3D printing:

  • Plastic (PLA, ABS, PVA)
  • Powder (Nylon, Alumide)
  • Resins
  • Metal (Stainless steel, Bronze, Gold)
  • Graphite and Graphene


We hope that after reading our take on the 3D printers and the working of 3D printers, you have gathered a lot of information about how 3D printers operate. We have provided all of the stages that are included in basic 3D printing so that you can get knowledge about 3D printing from the very beginning until the end. We can assure you that even though various 3D printers differ slightly in terms of working, you will find the same basic methodology in almost every 3D printer.