A 3D Computer aided model (CAD) of the initial idea or concept sketch design will be created. With the help of a solid modeler, such as Solidworks 3-d objects will be modeled.
This 3D CAD model will be converter in STL or IGES format. Usually for 3d printers STL will be used. This is the wordwide format standard in the rapid prototyping industry.
The STL model will be sliced into thin cross-sectional layers
The model will be constructed one later atop another..
The model will be finished and cleaned: your rapid prototype is ready! This steps involves the removing of your model form from the 3d printer. After this step some prototyping techniques require photo curing and therefore the 3d models needs to be cure in a oven. Last but not least the finishing step needs to begin. Polishing, painting, sandblasting are steps that are needed for improving the surfaces and durability of the 3d models.
STL format: This format represents a three-dimensional surface as an assembly of planar triangles, "like the facets of a cut jewel." 6 The file contains the coordinates of the vertices and the direction of the outward normal of each triangle. Because STL files use planar elements, they cannot represent curved surfaces exactly. Increasing the number of triangles improves the approximation, but at the cost of bigger file size. Large, complicated files require more time to pre-process and build, so the designer must balance accuracy with manageability to produce a useful STL file. Since the .stl format is universal, this process is identical for all of the RP build techniques.
Slice the STL File: In the third step, a pre-processing program prepares the STL file to be built. Several programs are available, and most allow the user to adjust the size, location and orientation of the model. Build orientation is important for several reasons. First, properties of rapid prototypes vary from one coordinate direction to another. For example, prototypes are usually weaker and less accurate in the z (vertical) direction than in the x-y plane. In addition, part orientation partially determines the amount of time required to build the model. Placing the shortest dimension in the z direction reduces the number of layers, thereby shortening build time. The pre-processing software slices the STL model into a number of layers from 0.01 mm to 0.7 mm thick, depending on the build technique. The program may also generate an auxiliary structure to support the model during the build. Supports are useful for delicate features such as overhangs, internal cavities, and thin-walled sections. Each PR machine manufacturer supplies their own proprietary pre-processing software.
Layer by Layer Construction: The fourth step is the actual construction of the part. Using one of several techniques (described in the next section) RP machines build one layer at a time from polymers, paper, or powdered metal. Most machines are fairly autonomous, needing little human intervention.