California, USA



Additive manufacturing involves the 5 following steps in general regardless of specific method employed

  1. Generation of 3D File
    1. Geometry is typically generated using Computer Aided Design (CAD)
    2. Geometry can also be generated via the use of 3D scanning
      1. However, a robust 3D model must be made from scanned geometry prior to printing
  2. Preparation of Print
    1. The generated .stl file is important into another software that “slices” the geometry or generates 2D layers of the provided 3D geometry
      1. This process defines the thickness of each print layer and orientation of printed part
      2. The “resolution” of the final print is determined by the size of each print layer
      3. The orientation of the printed part can be adjusted to minimize used material, increase print speed, and optimize print quality
      4. Orientation should also be chosen to take account of that the final printed part is weaker to loads applied perpendicular to the print layer’
  3. Finalize Print
    1. “Sliced” file is exported into software package associated with specific printer
    2. Build quantities, position, and orientation are finalized at this stage
    3. Printing process begins
  4. Print Removal
    1. Once print is completed the part must be removed
    2. This process may entail removal of support material and potentially excess resin or powder depending on the specific additive manufacturing process
  5. Post-Processing
    1. Depending on the specific additive manufacturing process, heat treatment can be applied to homogenize the microstructure of the final part
    2. For plastic parts, the surface of the final part can be attacked with solvents such as acetone to yield a superior surface finish


[1] Goodship, Vannessa, et al. Design and Manufacture of Plastic Components for Multifunctionality: Structural Composites, Injection Molding, and 3D Printing. Elsevier, 2016.

[2] Redwood, Ben, et al. The 3D Printing Handbook: Technologies, Design and Applications. 3D Hubs, 2018.