If you read this blog article, you probably know what a 3D printer is and the way it functions. If you don’t know, read THIS ARTICLE first, to be more informed. A 3D printer does not work without an application named Slicer, and a Slicer is useless without the 3D printer.
A Slicer is an application in which a computer generated model is introduced. According to a slicing profile, after the app does its work it will elaborate a file that can be read by the 3D printer. This file will have the extension .gcode and represents a way of communicating to the printer on how to build a certain model.
This HOW is defined by gcode lines that convey what to do to the motors, information about how fast they should move and what route they should follow. Bellow we have a simplified example of this addition process following gcode lines. We assume that we want to build the outline of a square. In a simplified version, gcode lines are as follows:
G1 X50 Y50 F1000; G1 X100 Y50 E2.4; G1 X100 Y100 E1.5; G1 X50 Y100 E0.8; G1 X50 Y50 E 1.2
The graphic representation seen from above is as follows:
Explanation: G1 means to execute a command. The first instruction, G1 X50 Y50 F1000 will position the head from 0,0 to 50,50 on the printing surface with a speed of 1000 mm/s.
G1 X100 Y50 E0.9 commands the printing head to move on the X axis, 50 mm to the right, while a 0.9 mm filament is extruded. After all the instructions are executed, the outline of a square with the sides measuring 5 cm will be created.
Now consider making a cube. In order to do this, we should instruct the printer to move on the Z axis (height) with a resolution established by us that can be changed depending on preferences (e.g. 0.2 mm) and then to repeat the outline. If this operation is repeated 250 times on height, we will obtain a cube with the sides measuring 5 cm with a resolution of 0.2 mm.
Overall, this is the way a 3D printer can create a real object based on a virtual model.
Now, let’s see how we can maneuver the settings of a slicer. Every application of this type come with certain slicing profiles that the manufacturer gives to the clients. The settings of Bitmi printers are available HERE.
As seen on the upper right side of the image, under “Print Setup”, the name of the slicer used on this model is called “Bitmi Pro PLA-Normal Quality”. This is because we use PLA as material to create the object with reasonable print quality.
The most important characteristics of a slicing profile are:
Quality – it’s related to the finesse of the layers in the Z axis in which we print. The higher the finesse, the higher is the quality of the printed object. For instance, to print a 1.2 mm high object with a high resolution like 0.1 mm/layer we need 12 layers, for good resolution, 0.2 mm/layer we need 6 layers and for a lower resolution, 0.3 mm/layer, we need 4 layers.
Temperatures – in the slicing profile, printing temperatures need to be specified. Bitmi printers print with PLA at 210/550C and with PET at 230/65 0C. The first temperature, the higher one is for the tool head and the second one, the lower temperature is for the printing surface.
Infill percentage – the objects can be printed empty, partially full or full. For functional objects like a coffee holder for the car we will use a higher degree of percentage as opposed with a flower vase. In the images bellow we can see the type and the degree of percentage of an object.
Liniar infill 5%
Triangle infill 20%
Two of the most popular slicers on the market are Cura and Slic3r. They can be downloaded for free, installed and configured in less than 1 minute.
The conclusions of this article are:
- A slicer is a software that transforms a 3D model in instructions that can be followed by a 3D printer.
- We use a slicer to establish the way an object can be created.
- The model is cut according with the settings of the slicing profile.