What are 3D Printers Made Out Of?

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3D printers are also referred to as additive manufacturing or desktop fabrication. These are prototyping devices that create a real object in a 3D design. Usually, the 3D model is saved in STL format before it is sent to the printer. Just like ink-jet printers, 3D printer prints an object layer-by-layer.

Nowadays, 3D printers are used in numerous applications such as medical industries where a surgeon uses the machines in creating a body part that needs to be operated. Apart from the pharmaceutical industry, 3D printers are used in the toy industry as well as in creating aerospace components. In that case, we shall take you through what 3D printers are made out of in this article.

3D printer components

By understanding 3D printer components, you will get a clear view of how it operates. Therefore, we shall take you through all the essential elements of a 3D printer from small to large parts.

1. Controller Board

The controller board is also known as the mainboard or the motherboard, and it is the brain of a 3D printer. This part of a 3D printer is responsible for core operations, and it operates by directing and interpreting motions components in reference to the command received from the computer and sensors input.

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You should note that the quality of a 3D printer motherboard will determine its overall performance. For machines with high-end parts, its printing ability is considered to be crap due to its low-quality controller board.

2. Filament

The filament is a material used in printing objects in a 3D printer, and it is equivalent to office 2D printer’s ink. It is equipped with a spool that is loaded in a 3D printer spool holder. The filament’s end should be inserted in the extruder. However, this will differ from one filament to another since they are made using different properties.

When it comes to the compatibility filament, not every 3D printer is on one level. Some printers are versatile enough to print using various materials, whereas some printers will print using PLA, which is the most basic filament. Furthermore, there are 3d printers that operate on proprietary filaments only. Most 3D printers available in today’s market operate using 1.75 millimeters diameter filament.

3. Power supply unit

PSU supplies power to a 3D printer. It is usually housed in a control box or mounted on a frame. When the power supply unit is mounted on the frame is considered as the best model since it gives an overall small machine footprint.

If you intend to print advanced material regularly, having the right PSU for the job is highly recommended. This is because some 3D printers feature PSU that is not designed to withstand high temperatures. Always ensure that the power supply unit and voltage used are compatible to avoid accidents from occurring.

4. Print Head

The print head is also referred to as extruder, and it is a 3D printer part that turns filament into a 3D model. The printer head is separated into two different sections; hot end and cold end sections. In the cold end section, the filament is clamped and pushed down to the hot end section where it is melted and passed through a nozzle and deposited on the build platform.

The print head features various small parts, each having a specific role to perform. Extruder drive gear or filament drive gear operates by pushing filament to the hot end section. For the heat sink fan and heat sink, they ensure that the filament has not melted before reaching the nozzle. Heater cartridge heats the filament, and the temperature sensor in the print head is monitored by thermocouple or thermistor. The cooling fan helps cool down the filament as it is being deposited on the print bed.

5. Motion components

These are parts responsible for the 3D printer movement in all three axes. Motion components are as well responsible for moving the print head and print bed. These actions are carried out once the controller board has directed the 3D printer on what to do.

6. Feeder system

There are two types of feeder systems available on 3D printers; direct feeder system and Bowden feeder system. In the Bowden feeder system, cold end and hot end are separated, whereby the cold end is given a different section on the frame. This design provides a light load to the printer hence increasing its speed.

In the direct feeder system, the hot and cold ends are connected. Despite that, Bowden design provides a fantastic result when printing using flexible materials; most individuals prefer using direct feeder design while operating with the same material.

7. Print bed surface

The print bed surface is also referred to as a build surface, and it is a part that goes on top of a print bed. The print bed surface holds on to the object being printed by the 3D printer, and it allows a quick and easer removal of the model.

There are various designs of print bed surface available in the market; however, PEI and BuildTak are the most common. They both feature advantages and disadvantages; therefore, choosing the one that best suits your needs are highly recommended.

8. Print bed

This is the part where print head deposits filament to come up with a solid object. There are two main designs of print bed; heat or non-heated. When designing a 3D model using PLA, a non-heated print bed will be essential. However, when dealing with high-temperature materials, a heated print bed is highly recommended for you to print quality 3D models.

9. Dual Extrusion

A 3D printer model will have either a dual extruder setup or a single extruder setup. Dual extrusion setup will operate at the same time two different filaments. In the market, there two designs of dual extrusion; a model with two nozzles that are available in a single print head and another model with two prints heads that are independent.

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A 3D printer with dual extrusion is capable of printing two different colors without having to change filament while printing. Furthermore, you will be able to create more complex 3D models while using dual extrusion.


 Having gone through this article, you now have a better understanding of the components that make a 3D printer. Understanding this is essential as it enables you achieve excellent strength, quality, and speed while using your printer. Additionally, it also enables you to make an informed decision as to which is the best 3D printer to buy depending on your needs and how to maintain it properly.

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