n South African Journal of Industrial Engineering - Development of a stereolithography (STL) input and computer numerical control (CNC) output algorithm for an entry-level 3-D printer

Volume 25, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1012-277X



This paper presents a prototype Stereolithography (STL) file format slicing and tool-path generation algorithm, which serves as a data front-end for a Rapid Prototyping (RP) entry-level three-dimensional (3-D) printer. Used mainly in Additive Manufacturing (AM), 3-D printers are devices that apply plastic, ceramic, and metal, layer by layer, in all three dimensions on a flat surface (X, Y, and Z axis). 3-D printers, unfortunately, cannot print an object without a special algorithm that is required to create the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) instructions for printing. An STL algorithm therefore forms a critical component for Layered Manufacturing (LM), also referred to as RP. The purpose of this study was to develop an algorithm that is capable of processing and slicing an STL file or multiple files, resulting in a tool-path, and finally compiling a CNC file for an entry-level 3-D printer. The prototype algorithm was implemented for an entry-level 3-D printer that utilises the Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) process or Solid Freeform Fabrication (SFF) process; an AM technology. Following an experimental method, the full data flow path for the prototype algorithm was developed, starting with STL data files, and then processing the STL data file into a G-code file format by slicing the model and creating a tool-path. This layering method is used by most 3-D printers to turn a 2-D object into a 3-D object. The STL algorithm developed in this study presents innovative opportunities for LM, since it allows engineers and architects to transform their ideas easily into a solid model in a fast, simple, and cheap way. This is accomplished by allowing STL models to be sliced rapidly, effectively, and without error, and finally to be processed and prepared into a G-code print file.

'n Prototipe stereolitografie (STL) dokument ontvou en instrumenttrajek generasie algoritme vir 'n intreevlak driedimensionele drukker word in dié studie bekendgestel. Driedimensionele drukkers word hoofsaaklik in toevoegingsvervaardiging gebruik deur lae plastiek, keramiek of metaal in al drie rigtings (x, y en z) op 'n plat oppervlak te deponeer. Rekenaar numeriese beheer word egter benodig om die driedimensionele drukker te begelei. Die STL algoritme vorm dus 'n integrale deel vir laag-op-laag vervaardiging. Die doel van hierdie studie is om 'n algoritme te ontwikkel wat die vermoë het om een of meer STL dokumente te prosesseer en te ontvou en 'n gepaste instrumenttrajek te formuleer en daaruit beheerinstruksies vir die drukker te genereer. Die STL lêer is geprosesseer tot 'n G-kode lêer deur middel van die algoritme. Die ontwikkelde algoritme hou innoverende geleenthede in vir laag-op-laag vervaardiging, aangesien dit aan ingenieurs en argitekte toelaat om vinnig en maklik hul idees in driedimensionele soliede voorwerpe te omskep. Dit is moontlik deur die STL modelle vinnig en sonder foute te ontvou en te prosesseer tot 'n G-kode beheerlêer.

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