Additive Manufacturing Basics

Additive manufacturing is just what it sounds like, the addition of material in a controlled and precise method to realize a designed part. 3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing. There are many different materials, machines, and methods of 3D printing. Minimally, you will need a slicing program, and a 3D printer to get started. On this page, we will explore as many materials, machines, and methods as I can manage to dig up and learn about.


Because there is so much information on these topics, this information will continuously be updated and so may not include complete information. Feel free to email me if you have any correction or addition to the information provided on this page.

3D Modeling Programs

A 3D modeling program is typically the first step in the 3D printing process, depending on if you are designing your own part or not. If not, then there are websites such as thingiverse, thangs, NASA, and many more that offer free prints that you can simply download, slice, and print. For those who like to design their own prints, there are many options of 3D modeling programs to choose from. Choosing which program is best for you can be a chore and so you really have to ask yourself what it is that you need from a modeling program like: do you need it to be free, do you need lot's of capability, how user friendly do you need it to be, and what is it that you are designing. Myself, I use two different sites. The first is Onshape, and the second is Sketchup. They both offer free and paid versions. I use the free versions on both, and they work very well for me. They have very different environments, tools, and methods for creating drawings, and it depends on my needs and what I want to design as to which I will use. Below is a list of 3D modeling programs. Note: I am listing them in no particular order. Also, not all software listed has free versions. Do your own research to find what works best for you.

Onshape            Autodesk             x

Sketchup            ZBrush                 x

Blender              Tinkercad             x

SolidWorks        x                            x

SolidEdge          x                            x

Mesh Programs

Mesh programs are programs that you would use after you create a part in a 3D modeling program that can refine a part specifically for 3D printing. It can correct design errors that weren't caught by the 3d modeling program, and enhance the resolution of the part, as well as some other features. Most 3D modeling programs are sufficient enough to bypass mesh programs and go right to slicing. I personally don't use a mesh program.

MeshLab             x

x                           x

Slicer Programs

Slicing programs analyze a 3D part and creates G-Code, the code that tells the printer what to do, and is the environment where you would adjust all the print settings such as: temperatures, print speed, resolution, infill, and any other settings you might need to adjust. Other features of the slicing program include orientation the part will print in, location of print on the print surface, scaling, and a layer by layer view of how you part will print. There are many more features and settings, too many to list here. If you need help or have any questions about settings, or feature of slicing programs, feel free to ask in the Forum.

Cura                                  Slic3r

3DPrinterOS            Simplify3D

IdeaMaker          Repetier-Host

x                          x


PLA                           Nylon 

PETG                            PVA

PET                    Sandstone

PETT                          Wood

ABS                             Metal

HIPS              Magnetic Iron

Conductive                 TPE   

Carbon Fiber        Amphora

Glow in the Dark