What You Need to Know About 3D Printing

So much has changed in the last few years when it comes to 3D printing. What was once a very exclusive technology to the very wealthy is now becoming more accessible as prices have decreased. 3D printers are playing a more important role than ever for both businesses and individuals.

Related: Metal business cards? 2015 Print trends you must know.

What is 3D Printing?

First developed back in the 1980’s, 3D printing is basically a method in which the design of an object can be digitally transmitted to a device that actually builds them out of plastic, metal, sand, ceramic, and even sugar! This has made a giant impact on the way goods are manufactured in the United States. Most industrial manufacturers in the country are either using 3D printers regularly now or are working on implementing them very soon.

While early 3D printers were expensive and difficult to use, newer printers require much less special knowledge and can be used by anyone. Medical professionals, designers and hobbyists are using 3D printers in their own homes now.

How Does 3D Printing Work?

Much like a traditional ink printer, a 3D printer takes the design of an object and then transmits it digitally to a device that builds the object layer by layer. It starts with a 3D model of the object built on a computer using special software. Once the virtual model is complete, it is digitally sliced into thin horizontal sections. These sections are then transmitted to the printer, which lays down an exact replica of each slice.

The printers themselves use different methods to actually build the layers of the object. Some printers use a computer controlled heat nozzle and melted material to build an object as it moves across a printing platform. Another type of 3D printer uses a laser to fuse powdered plastic or metal into the shape of the object. As each layer is completed, the printing platform is lowered and the next layer is added.

What Can 3D Printers Produce?

It is surprising just how much a 3D printer can do. Because the capabilities of the printers continue to increase and the list of materials that can be used continues to grow, there is no limit to what can be produced. As 3D printers first came into use, they were designed to build objects out of plastic. Now, 3D printing companies are supplying materials such as sugar, chocolate, sand, ceramic, metal materials and even living cells. People use 3D printing to create everything from food to parts for their car.

Most experts agree that 3D printing is the future of the manufacturing business. There may come a day when you no longer have to go to the store to buy a bike helmet for example. You could simply “print” your helmet at home using your personal 3D printer.

If you have a project that requires 3D printing, but you do not have access to a printer, call Printing Solutions at 480-596-6300.


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Andrew Pinch

Andrew Pinch

Andrew has been working in the print industry since 2003, working in prepress, management, and ultimately owner of print shops, including Printing Solutions of Tempe, Arizona. See Andrew's LinkedIn Profile here.