3D printing is an increasingly popular term for a variety of additive manufacturing processes, where parts are built from the bottom up into their finished forms instead of being carved out of a solid piece of material, or melted into a mold. Some typical additive manufacturing processes include Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (STL), Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), and more. Despite using different materials, machines, and methods, each of these processes start with the same thing – a 3D computer model of the finished part.
Where does the 3D model come from? If all features and sizes of the final part are known, the part can be developed and modeled directly into a CAD program, such as SolidWorks, by a design engineer. The throttle grip model, seen below, was modeled directly to customer specifications.
For organic, highly curved, and contoured surfaces of existing components, geometry may be captured through 3D scanning. This process uses optical cameras, infrared cameras, and/or laser emitters to take a series of images or points and utilizes software algorithms to build a computer model of the object in a matter of minutes, rather than the weeks of work that might be required to reconstruct the geometry from hand measurements and approximations. The human face is the epitome of highly contoured and unique geometry – each is extraordinarily expressive and distinct from any other. Joshua Smith, our company President, was an eager volunteer for 3D scanning. A handheld scanner was used to measure the geometry directly into software running on a desktop computer. The software program processes all of the raw data from the scanner and builds the 3D geometry from a series of images and data points. Surrounding features and background objects are then removed from the 3D geometry. The final colorized scan can be seen in the image below.
After the scan is created, it is converted into a 3D mesh made up of points on the geometric surface. This mesh is then used to create a solid 3D model which may be further customized, or directly converted for 3D printing. The final mesh of Joshua’s model can be seen below.
At this point, whether modeled directly or via a 3D scan, the solid model is ready for 3D printing. A software program is used to customize the parameters for the print, including material type, layer height, infill density, and more. The program then creates instructions in G-code, a numerical control programming language consisting of a series of points describing the motions, speeds, and extrusion required to build the 3D model. The G-code is sent to the HighRPM, and the final model is printed right here in Stratosmith’s offices. The final 3D printed models of Joshua and the throttle grip can be seen below.
Whether developing a new orthogonal part, or reverse engineering complex surfaces and organic geometry, a multitude of modern design tools including SolidWorks, 3D scanning, and the HighRPM rapid prototyping machine enable Stratosmith’s engineering team to accelerate the design and manufacturing processes, bringing concept to reality quickly and affordably.
Thank you for taking this journey with us from 3D Scan to 3D Print. Feel free to contact us with any questions. We would love to hear from you!