3D printers are one of several types of computer numerical control processes. CNC, as it’s also called, is an automated machine process controlled by a computer. Other examples of CNC machining include laser cutting, injection molding and water jet cutting.
While 3D printing can be described as a computer-controlled process, this is not a hard definition. 3D printing is vastly different from traditional CNC machines. For one thing, 3D printing is additive manufacturing, whereas other CNC machine processes use subtractive manufacturing. 3D printers can also work without a computer.
An Ipad is a great device for watching documentaries or reading eBooks. In this article, we look at whether you can use an Ipad with a 3D printer. We also look at whether you can print electronic devices with a 3D printer.
Do 3D Printers Require A Computer / Tablet?
A computer makes the workflow of 3D printing much simpler. While printing from a tablet device like an Ipad is possible, it does present a few challenges. For example, slicing models and preparing files for printing is much easier on a computer.
For more on this, we recommend that you check out our post titled “Do 3D Printers Need Internet or Be Connected To A Computer?“
The Process Of 3D Printing Using an Ipad / Tablet ( 3 Steps)
FDM 3D printers work by depositing successive layers of filament. UV printers work by curing resin or powder using either lights or a laser. All of these are complex processes involving several steps from the design of the object to the final print itself.
This is the basic premise of a 3D printer. But how would this process work on an Ipad?
Step 1: Designing/Modeling
Before you can 3D print, you first need a 3D model. You can create one yourself using modeling software if you need to create a custom design. There are several design software used in 3D modeling including Blender, AutoCAD, SketchUp and Tinkercad.
Modeling software gives you the fullest functionality when run on computer operating systems like Windows, Mac and Linux. Are there any modeling software you can use on an Ipad? Fortunately, there are.
- SketchUp Go is a mobile extension of the desktop app. Available on subscription, (there is no free version), it allows you to create and markup 3D models.
- Moblo is targeted primarily at makers who want to create furniture and woodworking designs. Unlike SketchUp, Moblo comes with a free version along with a paid premium version.
- Tinkercad is one of the most popular desktop modeling software. It also has a free mobile app for Ipad devices.
- Shapr3D is more suited to industrial designers and engineers. It has both a free and paid version.
- Morphi is aimed at a more diverse crowd of 3D printing enthusiasts. Morphi has both a limited free and paid version.
- Putty3D is a sculpting app suited for artists and generalists. Putty3D only comes in a paid version.
There are a lot more mobile 3D design apps. While they are quite powerful, they still suffer from a few limitations compared to a desktop app. One of their biggest limitations for example, is they do not yet support parametric modeling.
Designing your own models is an advanced skill. Fortunately, you do not need to design models yourself to start 3D printing. The simplest way to get 3D models is to download them. There are several design repositories where you can get 3D models for free. Some of the most popular include Thinger, 3D Geeks and 3D Collection. Source
Step 2: Preparing the files
After you’ve created or downloaded your design you need to slice it. Slicing software is used to convert your 3D model into layers or slices the printer can print. The main ways to do this is through using a desktop app like Cura, Prusaslicer or OctoPrint.
There are a few alternatives for slicing with an Ipad. The first would be to use an online or browser-based slicer. There are several options including:
- Cloud 3D Printer
The second option would be to download an app to your Ipad. PikaSlicer is one such slicer for the Ipad. Unfortunately, it only supports resin printers at present.
How about using a phone or an Android?! We highly recommend that you check out our post “Can You Use A Phone Or Tablet To 3D Print? (List Of Software Needed )“
Step 3: Printing your files
Depending on what device you are using, this might be a stumbling block. In order to print your design, you have to transfer your files from your device to the 3D printer. This is simple enough when you have a device with an SD card slot.
With an Ipad on the other hand it is a little more complicated as Ipads do not have SD card slots. A workaround for this is to use a micro SD to USB-c adapter. This would allow you to move your files from your Ipad to an SD card you can then print from.
Can You Plug A Printer Into An Ipad?
Ipads use Apple’s lightning connector. This cannot be used with the microUSB connector a 3D printer uses. This makes it impossible to directly connect a printer to an Ipad. The best way to print from an Ipad is either by transferring the files using an SD card or by printing wirelessly over WiFi.
Apple uses its own proprietary lightning connector to connect its devices. 3D printers use USB ports which you can use to connect to any computer or device except Apple. USB ports and lightning connectors are incompatible hence you cannot directly connect an Ipad to a 3D printer.