What Is 3D Printing? How Does A 3D Printer Work?

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3D printing (additive manufacturing) makes 3-dimensional objects from a computer design. The manufacturing method includes a 3D printer and plastics, liquids, or powder grains. These materials are added layer by layer. This whole process is quite efficient as it creates less material wastage.

3D printers nowadays can make simple stuff such as utensils, toys, and phone cases. Some high-end 3D printers can also create complicated objects such as food, guns, camera lenses, locks, clocks, etc.

How does a 3D printer work?

3D Models/Blueprints

The creation of these objects starts with a digital 3D model that works as a blueprint. Users can download these models from 3D Warehouse, 3dsky, CGTrader, etc.

3D Software

Users can then load the model with any 3D software of their choice. This software connects the PC to the 3D printer and instructs it to construct the model. e.g., Autodesk and Blender

Materials

3D printers are capable of making a lot of different things. This is all thanks to the special materials they use as a base for most of their creations. The variety of these materials varies from polymers to metals to composites. Think of these materials as ink for your 3D printer.

How is 3D printing better than traditional manufacturing?

The more traditional methods of manufacturing complex shapes and objects require a lot of materials (subtractive manufacturing). In comparison, 3D printing is a more viable solution for the future as it only uses the exact amount of materials needed for the final product.

Application of 3D printing

  • Consumer products (eyewear, footwear, design, furniture)
  • Industrial products (manufacturing tools, prototypes, functional end-use parts)
  • Dental products (fake teeth, braces, toothbrush)
  • Prosthetics (legs, arms, eyes)
  • Architectural scale models & maquettes (sculptures, miniature buildings/cities)
  • Reconstructing fossils
  • Replicating ancient artifacts
  • Reconstructing evidence in forensic pathology
  • Movie props (guns, knives, costumes)

How much does a 3D printer cost?

Despite its advantages, 3D printing can be somewhat costlier than traditional manufacturing. Although buying a printer can be cheaper than setting up a factory, the cost per item is higher. The finished product might not be as good as an industrial product.

In the future, the prices for the hardware and materials will likely become cheaper over time. The capabilities of the printers we see nowadays might even improve enough to be used in every household.

If you like this simple explainer, check out our Short Bytes section. We take complex tech topics and break them into short, easy-to-understand articles.

Nalin Rawat

Nalin Rawat

Nalin is a big fan of movies, comics, games, and awesome new gadgets. He has been writing about technology and gaming since college. In his free time, he plays FPS games and explores virtual reality.

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