What is 3D Printing?

3D printing, or sometimes known as Additive Manufacturing, is the name given to the group of technologies that build an object by adding each layer of material upon top of one another. These said layers are generated from a digital 3D model that would have been produced within CAD and other types of 3D modelling software. The 3D model is then sliced into defined layer thicknesses which the 3D printing machine can use to build the object, these layers are a representation of a thin cross-section of the original CAD model.

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 Methods of 3D Printing

There are a different methods of 3D printing depending on the application, some of these are:

FDM (Fused Deposition Moulding)

FDM is one of the most widely known methods of 3D printing, as this is the method in which everybody can easily go out and buy a desktop version of for an affordable price. FDM can be thought of utilising the same process of a glue gun, as the material (referred to as filament) is heated up and then forced through a nozzle as pressure is applied, if the pressure is kept at a constant then the molten material will be deposited evenly with a constant cross-sectional diameter. What separates the FDM method to using a glue gun is the fact that the extruder head (nozzle and heater) is attached to guide rods in which stepper motors move within the X and Y axis via belts, this enables the FDM machine to deposit the molten material within the desired locations that where set within the G-Code from the slicer software, thus the movement within the X and Y axis enables the desired outline shape of the model to be achieved, but what makes the process 3D is the fact that either the build plate or extruder head can move in the Z axis in order to enable the extruder to deposit the next layer on top until the model is complete.

SLS (Selective Laser Sintering)

SLS is a method of 3D printing where by tiny particles of ceramic, plastic or glass are fused together by heat. The heat is generated via a high-powered laser to which heats each particle just below its boiling point (sintering), this then causes each adjacent particle to fuse together to form a solid. What enables the printer to form the models outline is the X-Y scanning mirror in which reflects the laser to the correct position upon the powder bed in correspondence to the code generated from the slicer software. The model is then made 3 dimensional by the build chamber moving down within the z axis and a new layer of powder being rolled into position on the powder bed.


PolyJet 3D printing works within a similar way to how inkjet printing works, however instead of depositing droplets of ink it deposits droplets of UV-curable liquid and then is cured via UV light. In order to achieve models with an overhang the printer will also deposit a separate material that is used for a support structure, this material can then be easily removed in post processing.

What can 3D printing be used for?


Finished Products

Personalised Gift


Fashion Accessories

Film Props

Obsolete Part Replacement

A One-Off Product

The materials can range from various plastics to more functional materials like various metals and High temperature and wear resistant materials. For more information on different materials available please visit 3D Hubs.

How can CADPAD help you?

If you want to get a cheap prototype as quickly as possible, then CADPAD can help you go from Mind to design as fast as possible with our vast range of Designers. Once your design has been created and you are happy, all you need to do is click Print within the WorkSpace and then follow the steps provided.