How 3D Printing Can Make Your Prototypes Easier

By Taryn Engmark

Associate Editor

Embedded Computing Design

October 03, 2022


How 3D Printing Can Make Your Prototypes Easier

3D printing, since its conception in the 1980s, has only rise in popularity across industry sectors. Using a computer-driven design, 3D printing layers bio-material, plastic, or composites to create physical renditions of three-dimensional objects. This technology has established a method of manufacturing high-quality objects that is more cost-effective, customizable, and faster than purchasing pre-made products from stores, while also reducing waste due to its use of raw materials.

There are eight commonly used 3D printing technologies:

  • Polyjet
  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
  • Stereolithography (SLA)
  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
  • Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
  • Electron Beam Melting (EBM)
  • Digital Light Process (DLP)
  • Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)

The simple process and inexpensive required materials and equipment of FDM make it the most accessible method for beginners. 3D printing is already in use across healthcare, automotive, aerospace, and other industries, but it is most widely used by developers to prototype their designs quickly and cheaply.

To begin a 3D print, you need an STL file — a simple, portable format used by computer-aided design (CAD) systems to define solid geometry for 3D printable parts. The file, which contains input information, models the desired object's surfaces with a build platform that uses triangles shared vertices and edges. The key to quality designs is the STL file's resolution. If it's too high, the triangle may overlap; but if the resolution is too low, there will be gaps in the model, rendering it unprintable. 

You don't necessarily have to purchase a 3D printer to get started with the technology, though. Companies like open hardware facilitator Elecrow offer 3D printing as an online service, backed by ISO 9001 certification for quality assurance — you just have to upload an STL file to the 3D printing service page to receive a quote for your design.

For more information, visit