A Simple Guide to How 3D Printing Works

A Simple Guide to How 3D Printing Works

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. From tools, toys, clothing to body parts, 3D printing technology is changing the way we manufacture objects by building them layer upon layer.

How Does 3D Printing Work?

The process of 3D printing can be summarized in three simple steps:

Step 1: Design a 3D Model

A computer screen displaying a 3D design interface with a partially completed model and various modeling tools on the right side.

The first step is to create a 3D model or blueprint of the object you want to print. There are various 3D modeling software like TinkerCAD, Blender, AutoCAD, Fusion 360, etc. that allow designing 3D models.

You can either create your own custom design or download ready-made printable 3D models from websites like Thingiverse or Shapeways.

Once the 3D modeling is finished, export or save the design as STL (STereoLithography) file format. This is the standard file format recognizable by most 3D printers.

Step 2: Slice the STL File

Webpage for Ultimaker Cura Software with a download link, featuring a laptop displaying a 3D model and an Ultimaker 3D printer in the background.

The STL file then needs to be processed and sliced by a slicing software such as Cura, Simplify3D or OctoPrint.

Slicing software processes the 3D model and divides it into several printable layers and generates the toolpaths for the 3D printer head to follow.

Here you can select the printing parameters like print speed, layer height, printing material, supports, etc. as per your requirements. The software then exports this prepared file as a G-Code file.

Step 3: 3D Print the Object

Diagram illustrating the 3D printing process, from a CAD model to a finished 3D object, including steps for STL file creation, slicing software, and printing.

The generated G-Code file is finally transmitted to the 3D printer via SD card or USB connection.

The printer follows the instructions in the G-Code to print the 3D object layer-by-layer by depositing material until the object is formed. The printing material and technology used depends on the type of 3D printer.

Most common technologies used in 3D printing are FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling), SLA (Stereolithography) and SLS (Selective Laser Sintering).


In summary, 3D printing starts with designing a digital 3D model, which is then sliced into layers and converted into printer-readable G-Code instructions. These instructions are sent to the 3D printer which prints the object layer-by-layer using plastic, metal, concrete or other materials.

I hope this simple guide gives you a clear overview of the working of 3D printing process. Let me know in comments if you have any other questions!

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