3D printing

Source: fuvebtech.com

In this session you will learn the basics of 3D printing and how to produce a 3D object, starting from the idea to its physical creation.
The second part of the session introduces an important language tool: the passive voice. As scientists in the making you must be aware that science is generally presented using the passive voice, so you need to get used to it as soon as possible.


  Civilisation landmark
  • How 3D printing actually works
  1. Vocabulary: 3D printing
  1. Language tools about processes
  2. Transforming plain English into scientific English
  1. Write a comment
  2. Sci-Fi tutorial
  • The passive voice
  Language tools
  • Describing a process toolbox
  • Sci-Fi vocabulary


How 3D printing actually works
Designing an Idea
3D model

IT all starts with a concept. The first stage of 3D printing is laying out an original idea with digital modeling —that is, with Computer Aided Design (CAD) or animation modeling software.

Whichever program you choose, you're able to create a virtual blueprint of the object you want to print. The program then divides the object into digital cross-sections so the printer is able to build it layer by layer. The cross-sections essentially act as guides for the printer, so that the object is the exact size and shape you want. Both CAD and animation modeling software are WYSIWYG graphics editors.

If you're not particularly design-inclined, you can purchase, download or request ready-made designs from sites like Shapeways, Sculpteo or Thingiverse.

Once you have a completed design, you send it to the 3D printer with the standard file extension .STL (for "Standard Tessellation Language or "stereolithography"). STL files contain three-dimensional polygons that are sliced up so the printer can easily digest its information.

The 3D Printing Process

Now for the fun part. The first thing to note is that 3D printing is characterized as "additive" manufacturing, which means that a solid, three-dimensional object is constructed by adding material in layers. This is in contrast to regular "subtractive" manufacturing, through which object is constructed by machining raw material into a desired shape.

After the finished design file is sent to the 3D printer, you choose a specific material. This, depending on the printer, can be rubber, plastics, paper, polyurethane-like materials, metals and more.

Makerbot Replicator

Printer processes vary, but the material is usually sprayed, squeezed or otherwise transferred from the printer onto a platform. One printer in particular, the Makerbot Replicator 2 (see image), has a renewable bioplastic spooled in the back of the device (almost like string). When the printer is told to print something, it pulls the bioplastic filament through a tube and into an extruder, which heats it up and deposits it through a small hole and onto the build plate.

Then, a 3D printer makes passes (much like an inkjet printer) over the platform, depositing layer on top of layer of material to create the finished product (look closely —you can see the layers). This can take several hours or days depending on the size and complexity of the object. The average 3D-printed layer is approximately 100 microns (or micrometers), which is equivalent to 0.1 millimeters. Some printers, like the Objet Connex, can even deposit layers as thin as 16 microns.

Throughout the process, the different layers are automatically fused to create a single three-dimensional object in a dots per inch (DPI) resolution.

Pushing Innovation

It's clear that 3D printing has the potential to transform several industries. Take the health field —medical professionals have used 3D printing to create hearing aids, custom leg braces and even a titanium jaw (see image).

3D jaw

Last year, a team of researchers, engineers and dentists created the world's first prosthetic beak for a wounded bald eagle. NASA has tested 3D printers that will let Mars-bound astronauts print what they need as they travel.

Creating 3D-printed meat could fill the human need for protein while having less of an impact on the environment. The KamerMaker is a 3D printer large enough to print entire rooms. [...] Could 3D printing eventually change the world and even make mass manufacturing obsolete? We'll have to wait and see.

Adapted from a mashable.com article written by Matt Petronzio on Mar 28, 2013.



Autodesk Autocad
Source: 3dnatives.com


Source: Cults3D.com


Source: 3dprintingindustry.com

Thingiverse model

Random models on Thingiverse
Source: 3dprinterchat.com

Vocabulary challenge
Show how many technical words related to 3D printing you know by beating your opponents in the following challenge.

A. You must click on the correct term (out of 15) when its definition appears on the screen.



Improve your speaking, listening and writing skills in English with Duolingo, a free, fun-to-use app.


Language tools about processes.

B. In this exercise we will break down the text and study various language tools in some passages.

1. Key words for sequencing

In the first part of the document ("Designing an idea"), find words or phrases that indicate the following:

a. The initial step of the process

Check answer

b. The next step of the process

Check answer

c. The goal / objective of a step of the process

Check answer

d. A condition for a certain step, or a hypothesis:

Check answer

e. A step that begins only when certain conditions are met

Check answer


2. The use of the passive voice.

In the second part of the document ("The 3D printing process"), find all the examples of the passive voice. The passive voice is extremely frequent in describing a process and will be highly appreciated in your papers if you have to write about it.

Passive form Passive form Passive form
1. is characterized 2. 3.
4. 5. 6.
7. 8. 9.

Check answers


Check Emma's video below. She explains the passive voice in a very clear way.


Passive example

3. The use of adverbs.

In the following section find 4 adverbs and see how they help give useful details about the given situations.

Note: typical adverb formation:

Adjective + -ly = Adverb.

Great (ADJ) + ly = greatly (ADV).

Adverbs can also take a lot of other forms like very, quite, or little by little...]

Printer processes vary, but the material is usually sprayed, squeezed or otherwise transferred from the printer onto a platform. One printer in particular, the Makerbot Replicator 2, has a renewable bioplastic spooled in the back of the device (almost like string). When the printer is told to print something, it pulls the bioplastic filament through a tube and into an extruder, which heats it up and deposits it through a small hole and onto the build plate.

Then, a 3D printer makes passes (much like an inkjet printer) over the platform, depositing layer on top of layer of material to create the finished product (look closely — you can see the layers). This can take several hours or days depending on the size and complexity of the object. The average 3D-printed layer is approximately 100 microns (or micrometers), which is equivalent to 0.1 millimeters. Some printers, like the Objet Connex, can even deposit layers as thin as 16 microns.

Adverb #1 Adverb #2 Adverb #3 Adverb #4


  1. Finally
  2. Additionally
  3. Interestingly
  4. Recently
  5. Importantly
  6. Similarly
  7. Surprisingly
  8. Specifically
  9. Conversely
  10. Consequently
  11. Collectively
  12. Currently
  13. Accordingly
  14. Notably
  15. Subsequently
  16. Previously
  17. Unfortunately
  18. Remarkably
  19. Unexpectedly
  20. Lastly

Source: nsaunders.files.wordpress.com

4. Rewrite the following paragraph using structuring keywords, adverbs and the passive voice. (examples of adverbs: meticulously, carefully, neatly...)

Someone chooses a computer program and creates the blueprint of an object. The program divides the object into cross-sections. The printer uses the cross-sections to build the object layer by layer.


Please watch this short where I explain a possible way of doing the exercise. Obviously, you need to do the exercise BEFORE you watch the video.

Disclaimer: The correction is informal. For a more technical explanation of the passive voice, watch Emma's video in PART 4.

C. Now you are ready to transform common English into scientific English.

These sentences in the active voice will appear in the following video in the passive voice. Can you "predict" what they will look like? Write them in the boxes and then watch the video to check your answers.

1. You prepare the computer file for the machine.

2. The machine spreads out a layer of powder in the 3D printer.

3. The machine raises the temperature.

4. The extruder spreads out another layer of powder.

5. And the machine repeats the process many times

6. You lift out your model from the 3D printer and clean it.

7. You finish your model by hand.

Now watch the video and check your sentences.


D. Describing a process in Sci-Fi

Types of Sci-Fi by ship

In pairs*, choose one type of ship (picture next page) and explain to your partner what type of Sci-Fi you think it corresponds to. Your partner will tell you if they agree or disagree, if they have other ideas...Then move on to another type of ship and try to find a better, more detailed explanation than the first time.

* If you're working from home, you can do it on your own.

Grammar structures Vocabulary
• It looks / seems like... • A spaceship / starship / spacecraft
• Generally / Usually... • A (flying) saucer
• If [the ship is...], then... • A liner (usually luxurious ships used on a regular line)
• It may be because... / It probably is a... / It is likely that... / It could be... • Parts of a ship: the engine, the living quarters...the captain and officers direct operations from the bridge
• It is some version of... • FTL travel = Faster Than Light travel
• It takes place on a.../ The characters will be...

Space Ship 0
Space Ship 0
Space Ship 0
Space Ship 0


If the ship looks like an old-school rocket ship, then it's pretty obvious what you're getting: old-school stuff. Properties with ships that look like this are either genuinely vintage, or deliberately retro-designed, most likely for comical purposes.








Space Ship 4

Space Ship 5

Space Ship 6

Space Ship 7







Source: Jalopnik.com






* [Level: EASY] ** [Level: TRICKY] *** [Level: HARD]

E. Writing Sci-Fi

You live in the future, and you are making a tutorial to explain how to operate a device / machinery / futuristic vehicle or how to do a certain job that does not exist in the present.

* The process you are explaining takes ~5 steps.
** The process takes ~10 steps
*** The process takes ~10 steps, and the person you are explaining it to is from the early 2020s and was just awakened from cryo-sleep, so you need to take this factor into account in your explanations.

Need some help?
Read the “Describing a process – Toolbox” below and use the structures
Check the Science-Fiction landmark here
The future can be the year 2050, 2100, 2500...use your imagination and let it go wild!

* read / ** explain / *** explain without reading your notes

Once you are ready:

Present your process to your neighbors, who will give then you feedback. You can also e-mail each other your preparations.
In each group of 3-4 students who compared their work, you will decide which preparation / presentation wins awards in the following categories:

• Visionary: best idea for a futuristic process, imagination and attention to detail
• Scientist: most logical structure (order, connections) and clearest explanation
• Linguist: best language quality (including passive voice...), most accurate vocabulary (including adverbs...)
• Orator: best oral presentation (audience awareness, intonation...)"


Language tools
The passive voice

In this video, Emma explains why we use the passive voice so often in English and how to use it correctly.


Infinitive of purpose

  • In order to understand how the machine works, you have to read the instructions.
  • To enable the CDs to be printed, a master copy is necessary.
  • To see if the two methods gave the same measurement, the experiment was conducted in exactly the same conditions.
  • To measure X, a question asking ...... was used.
  • To determine whether it was possible, a scientific protocol was established.

Other phrases expressing purpose

FOR + Noun

  • For the purpose of height measurement, subjects were asked to stand.
  • For the estimation of protein concentration, 100 μL of protein sample was mixed with the solution.

Typical verbs (note use of passive form)

  • Data analysis was performed using SPSS 15.0.
  • The experiments were carried out over 2 weeks.
  • The subjects were asked to pay close attention.
  • Blood samples were obtained from 256 patients.

Sequence words/phrases

  • Prior to this experiment, documentation was necessary.
  • At the beginning of the process, a large amount of material is fed into the machine.
  • First, the elements have to be sorted according to size.
  • In a first time ≠ At first it was only a plank, now it's a snowboard.
  • After collection/ Once the collection was completed, the samples were shipped back to the lab.
  • Following this, the samples were recovered and stored.
  • The lump is then weighed again before being sent to the next stage.
  • Finally, it is packed and ready for shipment.
  • In the end, the measurement tool was found to be quite efficient.


  • To finish
  • For finish
  • For to finish

Adverbs of manner

  • The material will be updated gradually in accordance with new experimental effects.
  • Manually configuring Windows Firewall in Windows 10 is not too complicated.
  • A medical procedure is performed aseptically if it is free or freed from contact with pathogenic micro organisms.
  • The lenses are gently lifted from the support.
  • Each piece of equipment is carefully selected so as to guarantee optimal quality.
  • Newtonian gravity accurately describes the motion of the planets around the Sun.

Passive verb + using (instruments)

  • Fermentation in a winemaker is carried out using large stainless steel tanks.
  • Aluminum foil is made from a large block of aluminum that is thinned out using many very large presses.
  • Using small polyhema disks, soft polymer contact lenses fabrication implies a long and complex process.

Term Definition Term Definition
A.I. (Artificial intelligence) Human-created intelligent beings that live in a virtual environment such as on a computer. Hal from 2001 is iconic in this regard. Alien A creature not from Earth, or at least not from where your protagonist is from.
Android from the Greek, meaning like a human. These are artificial life forms that are constructed to resemble a human and act like one. They can be made from any material even organic material like flesh. Not to be confused with a Golem, which is a magical equivalent. Beaming Technology It fires a high energy beam of light in a straight line from point A to point B. It can be used as a weapon like a phaser or it can be used to transport matter, like a teleporter.
Colony World Science Fiction is obsessed with spreading human civilisation throughout the galaxy. Just as often these colony border planets are destroyed by a mysterious force that your hero needs to investigate. Credits Your protagonist will need money. Why not use the most common science fiction term of all and have them spend credits at the local cantina.
Force Fields, Energy Shields These will protect your ships and some people will even have personal ones. Shields on star ships are measured in percentages. Hyper Space A way to travel quickly between two points in space by passing through another dimension —usually subspace.

Intergalactic Between galaxies. Inter-Planetary Between planets.
Interstellar Between stars. Parallel Worlds This is when your character interacts with another dimension often like their own with perhaps a minor difference, for example, everyone is evil. For a really good lesson on parallel worlds read The Long Earth by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett.
Ray Gun, Blaster, Phaser, Heat Ray These are all examples of handheld side-arms used in science fiction to show that you are “in the future”. Sentient Beings These are any beings, organic or otherwise, including artificial intelligences that can feel.
SF A pretentious shortening of Science Fiction. This form is only used by unbearable snobs to try to see if you are one of them. Star Base, Space Station Operation bases in space. Like a Wild West town, they can be interesting meeting places for a variety of characters. They are often too far away from the core to send for help and some suffer lawlessness.
Techno-Babble Nonsense words used to explain improbable technological events. Such as “re-route power to the forward flux capacitor” or “Literally anything said in Star Trek: Discovery”. Technocracy A civilisation based around the worship of technology. This can be religious in a traditional sense or simply a strong reliance in technology such as is seen in the Star Trek franchise.
Terraforming This is the process of turning a planet into an environment that is suitable for life. Time Travel This is an event caused by a machine or natural object such as a black hole. This will transport your protagonist to the past or future. Alternatively, it will move them to another time-line.
Tractor Beam Your star ship will need a way to move objects out of the way or trap enemy ships. The Tractor Beam merely exists as a plot convenience. Without it, Han Solo would have flown away from the Death Star. Trans-Human Used in much the same way as Post-Human but is technically the in- between stage of humanity and post-humanity. For example a person becoming a cyborg is Trans-Human.
Utopian Societies Some science fiction civilisations have moved past the need for money. They live in a society that values art and ethics above material wealth. Warp Drive Hyper Drive, Quantum Drive and FTL (Faster Than Light) Drive. These refer to the engines used to move star ships through or under space at FTL speeds.
Warp Speed A form of FTL. Warp capable ships create fields of energy around them to travel through space by warping the fabric of reality.


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