What is 3D Printing? A Quick Guide

Photo by kakissel

What is 3D printing?

· 3D printing is the process of making 3 dimensional solid objects from digital designs.

· It is available and relatively affordable to all consumers.

· The possibilities of what you can make are virtually endless. Everything from prosthetic limbs and clothing to last weeks gun.

· The idea was conceptualized in the 1980’s—it was then called “stereolithography”.

How does 3D printing work?

· The first stage is computer aided design or animation modeling software. You use either of these to create a blueprint of the object you want to make.

· “The program then divides the object into digital cross-sections so the printer is able to build it layer by layer. The cross-sections essentially act as guides for the printer, so that the object is the exact size and shape you want.”—Courtesy of Mashable

· If you are not a creative or design oriented person, you can go to sites like Shapeways, Sculpteo, or Thingiverse where you can purchase and download a design that interests you.

· Once your design is finished, you then send it to the 3D printer.

· 3D printing is considered “additive” manufacturing which means that the object is made by layering materials. (“Subtractive” manufacturing is when they cut away undesired material to get the shape they desire.)

· You can choose what materials you would like the design made of—rubber, plastic, metal, paper, etc.

· It can take hours or days depending on the size and difficulty of the design.

· Some designs you make the individual parts and then assemble the item.

· Prices for 3D printers can range from $1000-$600,000.

· This innovation opens up possibilities in so many industries—from the medical profession to NASA to toys to architecture….the sky is the limit for what your creative mind can now create.

· The 3D “Liberator” gun was made of almost entirely plastic. Most of the pieces were created in an $8000 Stratasys Dimension SST 3D printer. The only part that was not made on the printer was a nail that was used as a firing pin.