3D printing is the additive manufacturing process of creating solid, three-dimensional objects straight from a digital file. The creation of a solid 3D printed object can be achieved using an additive process where successive layers of materials are laid down, layer upon layer, until the object is formed. A cross section of the finished object will reveal thinly sliced horizontal layers from the additive process. The 3D printing process is the exact opposite of subtractive manufacturing, where material such as metal or plastic is hollowed or cut out with the help of tools like a milling machine.
3D printers allow for the production of complex yet functional shapes using far less material than other, more wasteful manufacturing methods. 3D printers don’t necessarily make objects on demand as depicted in sci-fi fantasies. They work by following digital instructions to print a particular object or design using materials like ceramics, plastic, or metal. As earlier mentioned, the printing process builds up the target object one layer after the other until it reaches completion. Some 3D printers would squirt out a controlled stream of heated, liquid-like or semi-liquid plastic, which then solidifies as the printer head moves around to create the outline for each layer of the object.
3D printing instructions typically take the form of CAD (or Computer Aided Design) files that serve as digital blueprints for creating and building different kinds of objects. It is through these kinds of programs that users can design objects using their computer with a 3D modelling software, hook the computer up to their 3D printer, and watch the object unfold before their eyes as the 3D device builds the object up using layers of material. Today, 3D printers enjoy great popularity and are making waves in the manufacturing industry as an efficient way of producing prototypes and actual product components.