Replicator has a wonderful post that lists the essential steps for accomplishing 3D printing, although with a ZCorp flavor. Here is what they say (and we agree) are the steps you must get done:
- CAD Preparation - Always the first step, and perhaps the most difficult. You gotta have a model, and you're either making it yourself, buying one or finding it somewhere
- 3D Printing - This is the easy part. You send the model to the printer (or service) and simply wait for it to finish printing. We didn't say this was the quickest step, because printouts still take hours or even days to complete
- Cleaning 3D Printouts - Right from the "oven", the printouts are usually messy to varying degrees depending on the type of printer. The post illustrates the challenges in cleaning up models printed on dry powder media printers. The ZCorp requires a period in an actual oven to firm up the media glue
- Post Processing - For sure, they're never quite right. You may have to grind off supports, sand rough areas or other touchups
- Finishing - Unless you're using a ZCorp printer, you probably will be hand-painting your model, as most printers simply print in a single color and single material. Even ZCorp output may require painting if the colors are not sufficiently vibrant or varied
- Packaging - The post points out one aspect not well understood by those new to 3D printing concepts: the models just aren't very strong. To counteract this, they recommend encapsulating printouts in a package for protection
As you can see, getting a 3D model in your hands is a lot more than just pressing a button on a printer. This illustrates the challenges facing this industry, where mass adoption is impossible until the sequence of steps above is dramatically simplified. We've seen some attempts at this in some of the steps above, but no one has been able to put the whole thing together into a coherent and simple flow for consumers. Stay tuned!