3D printing is an additive manufacturing technique that adds layers of material layer by layer to produce physical objects such as coffee cups or houses. 3D printers can produce virtually anything imaginable using this process - from cups and houses.
3D printing offers many advantages, from creating personalized products and manufacturing parts rapidly, to helping reduce environmental impact by eliminating large-scale production.
3D printing technology can also help lower costs. While traditional manufacturing requires producing multiple items at once, 3D printing allows individual items to be produced within hours - and in various materials including metals and polymers.
This technology can be applied across industries and has the power to revolutionise manufacturing. Already used in medical settings to craft implants and devices such as hearing aids; railway repairs; and construction companies for producing custom parts.
Design and engineering firms use 3D printers to develop customized tools and prototypes for various applications. While 2D printers only print in lines, 3D printers can create intricate shapes like an arm rest for drivers or housing covers for train couplings.
This technology can be utilized to reduce waste in production, particularly with plastics recycling and reuse. Furthermore, it's more eco-friendly than other forms of manufacturing as it uses recycled materials in its construction.
This process begins by creating a digital file that tells the printer where to add layers of material - this could be either a computer aided design (CAD) file or an STL (stereolithography) file.
These files can be uploaded into a virtual library so the design can be updated or added to at any time without printing out large quantities and wasting resources. Furthermore, should its design change quickly after being saved as a design file, printing can occur immediately without waiting for batches to complete printing first.
Sharing and collaborating on designs with others is also easy and suitable for almost every industry. Designers, for instance, can share 3D models to showcase their work as prototypes.
Testing market concepts through tangible prototypes can also be an efficient method. Consumers and investors can evaluate this physical representation, saving both money and time with more costly prototyping processes.
Conversely, 3D printing can also help speed up product development cycles and accelerate business operations. Companies using this form of 3D printing to rapidly make prototypes for new products to bring faster to market.
Educationally speaking, makerspaces can also be an invaluable asset, as they allow students to explore ideas and test theories while gaining an appreciation of technology's practical applications. That is why many schools feature makerspaces where students gain hands-on experience working with machines as part of their studies.