There are three basic steps to 3D Printing. This example shows the process on a consumer level 3D Printer (my Flashforge Creator Pro). The steps scaled up to industrial levels are basically the same.
Step 1: Create a 3D Model using software.
We use Blender which is open source and has fantastic modelling capabilities. Blender can so much more than just the modelling, if you have an interest in computer graphics, animation, video sequencing or creating games, take a look at what Blender can do. The Monkey's name is "Suzanne" which is Blender's default test object.
See also: Creating Content for 3d Printing
Step 2: Slice it
This is separate software that figures out how to build the model, including any temporary support structures that might be needed. The Slicer software figures out all the nozzle movements, the temperatures and the flow rates of the filament material and encodes this in a file. We use Simplify3D for Slicing. Simplify3D is not free, but does have an active support community behind it and produces impressive results.
Step 3: Print it
The file created by the Slicer can now be sent to the 3D Printer. This is as simple as uploading the file and telling the printer to print it. Printing can take quite a while, even a small model like this could take 20 minutes on a consumer level printer. Large prints have their times measured in hours. This is why we are focused on linking up with commercial printing companies who have the industrial-scale capacity to print quickly and in volume. We have a Flashforge Creator Pro (Flashforge Europe; Flashforge USA) which we use for testing and refinement of our designs. We then do a final test with a commercial printer before offering the products to you for sale in our shop.