To understand 3D printing, it is helpful to compare it with regular ink-paper printing. Did you know that with regular printers, the ink does not stain the paper? It actually sits on the paper or is “bonded” to it. In the case of 3D printing, ink is replaced by different materials such as functional plastics, metals, ceramics, sand and even biological materials like sugar and chocolate.
3D printing is also referred to as additive manufacturing - the processes by which a physical object is created by adding material layer by layer.
While there are multiple 3D printing techniques, they all follow the same following three steps:
1. INPUT - A 3D model or CAD (computer-aided design) is created using a 3D software program or a 3D scanner.
2. PROCESS - The 3D model is ‘sliced’ or divided into layers to convert the design into a file readable by the 3D printer. Then, the material is processed by the 3D printer and layered according to the design
3. OUTPUT - A 3D printed object is created.
In this unit you will find sources that can give you an overview of what 3D printing is. You can also read more about the history of 3D printing, and even hear from the inventor of 3D printing in the interview titled “The night I invented 3D printing.”