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What is 3D printing?

posted 07 January 2015 at 16:37:38

3D printing is the process of creating a three-dimensional, solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model that has been designed on a computer using special 3D software.  

3D output is achieved by using an ‘additive manufacturing process’, where successive layers of a heated material, such as plastic or metal, are laid down in different shapes.  

To print objects, the 3D printer reads virtual blueprints from a series of cross-sections in a special 3D computer program and extrudes (via a nozzle on the 3D printer) layers of plastic or other materials in a particular sequence to build the 3D object. The layers are then joined together or are automatically fused and cool to create the final physical shape.  

According to the New Scientist, we are slap bang in the middle of the second industrial revolution and it’s all thanks to 3D printing. Virtually anything that can be designed on a computer can now be turned into a physical 3D printed object in a matter of minutes, hours or days.  

The technology has been transformed since its origins in the 1980s, when it was a tool used almost exclusively by designers and manufacturers to create rapid prototypes, into something that opens up a whole new world of business opportunities. This is creativity and manufacturing at the click of a mouse, rather than as a result of laborious hammering, soldering, cutting and hours of manual labour. And it is enabling not just companies but individuals to take their own ideas and turn them into physical, real products.

Pick up a copy of 3D Create & Print and discover the world of 3D printing for yourself.