A Brave New World
If you’re like most people, you’ve heard a bit about 3D printing in the news and media, but are not really sure what it’s all about. How is it useful? How does it work? What kind of things can you do and make? With all the information out there, it can be overwhelming trying to figure it all out.
That’s why Print More, Spend Less created a 3D Printing Educational Center to centralize resources regarding this new technology. We have assembled a one-stop-shop for 3D printing information and know-how. Our Center is a compilation of informational and educational links to magazine articles, reference materials, newsletters, digital design collections, 3D product manufacturers, distributors, and helpful You Tube videos documenting how 3D printers operate and the amazing products being made.
If you are ready to learn more about the world of possibilities available with 3D printing, and discover more about how the it works and what the future holds for such powerful technology, then this the place to be.
A Brief Introduction
3D printing’s technical name is “additive manufacturing” (AM). AM is the process in which three-dimensional objects are created adding successive layers of material under computer control.
Generally speaking, 3D printing is used for creating (or re-creating) any 3-dimensional object. 3D printers are available in two different formats: for industry (typically larger-scale) and for the home “hobbyist” (more compact and desk-top sized).
The process of printing is generally straightforward. First, a digital design is created or uploaded (using designs that come with the printer or via open source software). Then, the design is “printed” by the 3D printer using a source material (most commonly some form of colored thermoplastic). This material is melted and extruded through a jet(s) onto a three-dimensional cube-like platform. Objects are cooled and immediately usable. Or, further touch up and modify them to create a particular look.
Of course, the science behind it is more complex. The printers rely on sophisticated computer and software technology to create, manipulate, and edit objects in the virtual realm. However, it is the printing materials that are key. At this stage, most home hobbyist printers are using different forms of plastics (typically ABS and PLA, discussed in greater detail below) to create items, but technological advancements in materials are pushing the limits of 3D printing. As such, there will be an increased need for materials that are, for example, edible or acceptable for use in the human body.
3D printing is exceptional. This is not because objects can be made – humans have been “designing” in their heads and on paper and “printing” with their hands or available technology for millennia. It is exceptional because:
- Designs are created, refined, and edited with minimal waste of physical resources and time,
- Objects are made quickly and are usable with little or no post-production refinement,
- Use of computers practically eliminates human error,
- 3D printer are portable and usable in a variety of settings facilitating quick creation,
- As the technology advances, 3D printing will become increasingly democratic and in the hands of more individual users.
What does this mean in the real world? Well, current popular uses for 3D printing include:
- Manufacturing apparel, jewelry, and shoes
- Food products,
- Automotive and airplane parts,
- Architectural modeling,
- . . . and even for making firearms.
3D printing has many opporunities in a variety of sectors and industries. For instance, it is now possible to create a broken or missing part in outer space in a spaceship rather than rely on having extras of everything on board. Here on earth, we can print human organ replacements or an unbaked pizza.
These factors point to a developing and future technology that is wide-reaching with implications beyond our knowledge.
Let’s Keep Learning
We want to give you an approachable, foundational overview and greater understanding of this truly game changing technology. Increased affordability and accessibility of 3D printers for the home means more opportunities to try it out. Now, it is easier than ever for virtually anyone to design, sculpt, and invent new, creative, and useful objects that just may change one’s everyday life – or maybe even the world.
Think you have a handle on 3D Printing? Want to give it a try? When you’re ready, look to Print More, Spend Less for low discount prices on everything you need to get started on your 3D printing journey.