A Short Guide To 3D Printing

This beginner’s guide provides a short introduction to 3D printing otherwise known in industry as additive manufacturing.

Printing in 3D is an important technology which promises to change our world. Indeed, many refer to it as the third industrial revolution. A promise where products are made just for you or even by you. Don’t forget to watch the video below. It will all become clear if you have not already seen what 3D printers are exactly and what they can do.

The basic technology

Additive manufacturing is a process of making 3-dimensional solid articles from digital models designed on a computer. The result is a physical representation of the digital file.

Printing in 3D is an additive process, where layers of material are successively deposited, one on top of another, finally realising the complete object.

Techniques used in the additive process are fused deposition modelling, selective laser melting and direct metal laser sintering.

Additive manufacturing

These techniques are distinct from traditional manufacturing (e.g. CNC machining) which remove material. As printing is not subtractive, adding material only, there is less waste.

Advantages include: manufacturing in a distributive manner, closest to the point of need whilst design changes can be realised in short time scales.

Larger, more complex or intricate items are frequently modelled, printed and assembled from 3D printed sub-components.

What are 3D printers?

These are robotically controlled devices, capable of performing an additive process by putting down layers of material in sequence so that the object is built one layer at a time.

3D printers are used for rapid prototyping in design for manufacture and increasingly for industrial production given the stated advantages.

Recently, machines using plastic FDM have been offered to consumers. Leading manufacturers are MakerBot, Ultimaker…

Watch the video to see how your world is likely to change, sooner rather than later.

The 3D Print Show in London by Explaining The Future, 2014-09-07. 3D printing for consumers is becoming more popular given the enthusiastic response at last year’s London event.

For a more indepth introduction and references to unbiased material, there are many resources available. Not least a good place to start is the 3D printing wikipedia page.