What is 3D printing?

3D printing seems to be all the rage. So what exactly is it and how is it going to inevitably make our lives better?

3D printing also known as ‘additive manufacturing (AM), refers to processes used to synthesize a three-dimensional object in which successive layers of material are formed under computer control to create an object.’ Basically it is the creation of entire objects, layer by layer, with a computer from a digital file. The first step in the process would be create the ‘mold.’ Designing the mold is a digital process and is done through a computer programme.

The printer is then fed the design and ‘prints’ it through a spool of plastic that forms layer on top of layer by the cooling of the plastic material. The use of plastic is not exclusive though and anything from metal to even food materials can be 3D printed. Art has not been left behind in this advancements with seemingly infinite creations being brought into the mix.

3D printing differs from traditional forms of manufacturing as it is an ‘additive’ form of production and not ‘subtractive.’ In more conventional artistic production processes parts are taken away from a whole like taking away bits while carving, but in this way since materials are added, less resources are wasted not to mention that recycled materials can be used in the creation process.

Everything from building materials, prosthetics, jewelry, the cosmetics industry, robotics, sports and the arts have used 3D applications in their workings. The options are literally endless.


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