The creation of a 3D printed object begins with CAD software. There are different types of CAD software which differ in the process of constructing an object. Some work through using standard shapes (Solid Modelling), while others are work in the manner similar to sculpting of clay (Mesh modelling).
The differences are due to historical uses where certain software was designed for animation while others specifically for product development. Regardless of choice, most of the applications can export 3D model to popular formats that can be used for 3D printing, namely to STL files.
An STL file is a representation of a 3D object that is constructed using small triangles. It breaks down the CAD models’ surface into tiny triangles that combine to make the object. The size of the triangles are controlled by setting the resolution when exporting.
To illustrate this, a lower resolution object will have visible edges, especially along a curve, similar to the pixelation of a low-resolution image but in 3D space.
After the creation of the STL file, it is then imported into slicing software which converts the object into printable layers that the printer can map out. The slicing phase is a key step where all the desire parameters are added to create the desired fidelity of the object. These parameters can include for example the desired printing temperature, layer height and more.
After setting all parameters, the slicer software then creates a G-Code version of the object. G-code is a language that instructs the 3D printer on how to construct the sliced layers. It controls the different parts of the 3D printer such as movement of extruder within the print chamber.