How do 3D Printers Work?
In this article I will explain 3D Printer Parts and Components for FFF type machines. 3D printers with FFF technology have the same basic parts as FFF machines other manufacturers. The parts is Power Supply, Mainboard, Extruder, and Heated Bed.
A. Power Supply
Power supply is a component that serves to provide power/electricity to electronic devices and motors contained in 3D printers.
Without a power supply, the printer will not function.
Power supply can be likened to food, without food the body cannot be moved.
There are two types of power supply that are generally used in 3D machines, 12V and 24V.
The difference in the value output voltage of the power supply affects the type of heating filament in the Heated Bed.
There is a filament bed that uses a voltage of 12V and there is also a 24V.
The higher the voltage for the Bed heating element, the faster the heating occurs. Likewise with the heating element Heating Catride (to melt the filament).
The main board is an electronic board consisting of a regulator, microcontroller, motor driver, and heat driver which has the ultimate goal of controlling all printer activities.
The main board can be likened to the head, where processing occurs. Let us learn more about 3D Printer Parts and Components.
B.1 Microcontroller (uC)
Microcontroller is one of the electronic components that functions to process all the instructions given like to read the temperature, give instructions for the movement of the stepper motor, control the heat on the heated bed and heating block.
This microcontroller can be likened to a brain where data is processed. To be able to make the microcontroller work, it need a Firmware and .GCode.
b.1.1 What is Firmware?
Firmware is program code that is permanently injected/inserted/embedded in the microcontroller.
Its function is to translate .gcode program code into a command code that is understood by the 3D Printer Machine.
One of the famous firmware in the world of 3D Printing is Marlin Firmware. This firmware is open source and may be used for personal purposes. Some main board printers that use Marlin are Prusa 3D, Creality & Ender, Anet 3D, Geetech, Reprap, Tronxy, Wanhao, Ultimaker, Zone.
b.1.2 What is GCode?
Gcode is a collection of command lines for printing 3D objects.
This Gcode file is generated from the Slicer application such as Cura, PrusaSlicer, Simplify 3D, Repeater Host, and Makerware.
Every 3D object has its own Gcode file, it won’t be the same as the others. This file will be saved into the memory card and read by the microcontroller through the Card Module and will be translated every command by the firmware in the microcontroller.
2. Types of Microcontrollers for 3D printer machines
In general, there are two types of uC that are commonly used, 8-bit and 32-bit.
The 8-bit microcontrollers that are often used are the AVR variants from Atmel/microchip
Examples of main boards that use 8-bit uC are:
BOARD MICROCONTROLLER (8-bit) Anet V1 ATMega1284p Azteeg X1 ATMega1284p Arduino Mega RAMPS ATmega2560 Azteeg X3 Pro ATmega2560 Einsy RAMBo ATmega2560
32 bit microcontrollers such as ESP and ARM. Examples of main boards that use 32-bit uC are:
BOARD MICROCONTROLLER (32-bit) Arduino Due RAMPS SAM3x8E Ultimachine Archim 1 & 2 SAM3X8E Anet ET4 & Pro STM32F407VG LERDGE-Z STM32F407VET Smoothieboard v1 LPC1769FBD100 Smoothieboard v2 LPC4337FET256 AZSMZ Mini LPC1768 SKR E3 Mini v2 STM32F103RCt6 SKR E3 Mini v3 STM32G0B1RET6/STM32G0B0RET6 SKR E3 Turbo LPC1769 Octopus Pro V1.0 STM32F407ZET6 Octopus V1.1 STM32F446ZET6 Azteeg X5 GT LPC1769 BricoLemon Lite ATSAMD51N19A
3. 8-bit vs 32-bit
That both of microcontrollers can run 3D printers smoothly, but why for next year we will choose 32-bit microcontrollers?
I don’t explain it into detail for the bit system, because it’s very long and needs a good understanding. But simply:
- Memory Register: 32 bits have much more register capacity, so they can process code programs faster than 8-bits.
- Frequency: With a speed higher than 8-bit, it allows the 32-bit board to do more multitasking such as controlling stepper motors, managing touch screen traffic, managing internet traffic (if using remote control) at the same time.
- Upgradable: 32-bit makes it possible to upgrade devices such as memory, camera, lidar, sensors, multi extruders, and more without worrying about full flash memory size.
The extruder is a block main function is to produce the melted filament from the hard filament.
To do that, in this extruder there are several supporting components, namely:
- Sensor Filament
- Stepper Motor
- PTFE Tube
- Hotend Fan
- Hotend Heatsink
- Heat Break
- Print Fan
- Block heating
D. Heating Block
The heating block is a rectangular block generally made of aluminum, where the nozzle, thermistor (temperature sensor), and heating cartridge (heating element) are combined.
Look at to the following picture:
Heating catride (heater) will generate heat between 100 – 300 degrees (some types of heaters can generate temperatures more than that).
This heating block will spread the heat and the filament in the nozzle will melt.
The nozzle will produce the melted plastic by the pressure of hard filament exerted by the stepper motor (2).
To control a stable heat in the heating block, the temperature will be read by the Thermistor.
D. Heated Bed
A heated bed is a plate to stand up 3D objects during printing and generates heat. The heat serves the melt filament from nozzle. Otherwise, the object will not be able to stand up straight and the printer will fail.
To control the heat, the side of the heatbed is need a thermistor. Basically in this heated bed is a hot filament, by the history development, its started from a PCB consisting of many copper lines. Look at this picture:
When the PCB path is electrified, the PCB will become hot. The high temperature of the BED depends on the type of filament used.
Hopefully this FFF 3D Printer Parts and Components article is useful.
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