3D printing differs from machining in that the material properties of a printed part are created in process, along with its geometry. The 3D printing process itself determines the microstructure of the plastic filament, resin, metal powder or wire that builds up the part, which may be further affected by post processing. Choices made in preparing the print such as build orientation, nozzle temperature or laser power influence properties such as layer adhesion and part density in addition to geometric accuracy. The wrong setup can lead to failure, either in the build itself or of the final part.
While machine monitoring can help catch unanticipated problems in process, many manufacturers rely on build simulation to check parameters and identify errors before they happen. The video below discusses the use of a process simulation tool that allows users to check for issues with build orientation, distortion and laser pathways before printing.
The variety possible in 3D printer parameters is a challenge, but it is also an opportunity. Additive manufacturers using powder bed fusion, for instance, have the ability to manipulate print speed, density and surface finish by adjusting laser power, focus and hatching (the distance between each pass of the laser). The article “Pushing Laser Powder Bed Fusion into New Realms of Productivity” details how one manufacturer (Betatype, now Alloyed) was able to significantly reduce build time and part cost for a powder bed fusion part by optimizing its print parameters.