- What is 3D Printing?
3D Printing is when you take a 3D design and print it layer by layer to create a solid 3D object. The
process is more efficient than previous methods in terms of time, cost and minimal waste of material.
- What Material Does My 3D Printer Use?
The material used to print with is known as Filament and usually comes on a spool.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) has been used for many years to make all kinds of things,
including the popular children’s toy LEGO. ABS is a sturdy plastic that allows prints to have great
resistance to high temperatures, so it can be used for printing things like containers that hold hot
liquids.Due to high resistance to heat, ABS must be extruded and printed onto a heated print bed.
Polylactic Acid (PLA) is a plastic derived from renewable resources such as cornstarch, tapioca
roots and sugar cane, making it biodegradable and recyclable. The main downfall of prints made
with PLA is performance in high temperatures. Due to PLA’s relatively low glass transition
temperature, it loses its strength as it heats up . So if you wanted to print a coffee cup, for example,
you would need to use ABS instead of PLA, as the heat from the hot liquid will cause PLA to warp
and melt. The filament you require will ultimately come down to what you intend to print and how
you plan to use your creations.
There are also a variety of Speciality Filaments that are derivatives of PLA and ABS such as
LayWood, LayBrick and Bendlay. Materials such as PVA and Nylon are also suitable for 3D Printing.
Please do check the specifications of 3D Printers and Filaments to ensure they are suitable with
your chosen 3D Printer.
- Can I Create and Design My Own 3D Prints?
Of course! There is a variety of 3D Design Software out there which allows you to design your very
own objects, edit them, scale them up or down and tweak them until you are satisfied with your
design. Most of the Software that comes with 3D Printers or Scanners is what we can refer to as
Application - it allows you to make modifications to the Print and allows you to “Slice”. Slicing
is effectively creating lots of single layers from the bottom upwards to ensure the 3D Design can print.
- Can I Create, Share and Download Digital Designs?
Absolutely! Creating, sharing and downloading digital designs is the foundation of 3D Printing!
Most 3D Printers operate on an open source format allowing you to upload designs you have
created or downloaded and the most common file format is STL. With a number of websites and
sources for downloading and sharing designs ensuring you can explore, create, edit and personalise
as many designs as want, the possibilities are endless.
- Heated Bed vs Non-Heated Bed & Enclosed Chambers – What Is The Difference?
There is much debate over this! Some argue that a heated bed will reduce the risk and amount of
warping during printing as the heat helps to cool the part more evenly. Others claim it does not
have a big impact. Our view is that warping is caused by many factors and purely having a heated
bed cannot solve this issue. However, if you are printing with ABS it is highly recommended to have
a heated bed due to the temperature required and this will ensure your Design sticks to the build
We feel it is more important to choose a printer that will suit your needs - including build size and
desired materials that you intend to work with, than specifically looking for one with or without a
The benefits, or not, of an enclosed chamber are similar to a heated bed, it can help to reduce warping
as it maintains a more stable temperature throughout the printing process. Whilst it is definitely not
a good idea to have your 3D Printer set in a draught, there can be many factors that cause warping
and having an enclosed chamber is not a guarantee of solving the problem.
- Microns, Resolution and X, Y and Z?
A Micron is equal to one millionth of a metre. It is normally used to refer to the layer height also
known as Print Resolution or Z height. So 100 Microns is equal to 0.1mm. The lower the Micron,
the better the Resolution.
Z Height (Resolution) is not the only thing that matters. Printing at 200 microns (0.02mm) will take
longer to achieve and the visual difference between 20 and 60 will be limited as we are talking about
0.04 millimetre. It is more important to have a good balance of X (Width), Y (Height) and Z (Layer Height)
accuracy to produce good quality parts.