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What is 3D Printing?

Wikipedia defines 3D printing as "a form of additive manufacturing technology where a three dimensional object is created by laying down successive layers of material. When we print something out of a printer, the ink nozzles go across the paper while the paper come out. What is happening is that, it is printing horizontally while the paper is ejecting vertically thus creating a 2 dimensional drawing or sheet. In 3D printing we add another dimension: height. In essence, the layers of material are built sideways as well as fused and built up creating the model. The 3D printer technological innovation is fairly simple to actually understand; a computer assisted design application (CAD) directs a printer nozzle to extrude small amounts of material, building its shape to produce a 3 dimensional design.

There are many types of materials that can be used to create a 3D object:

  • Nylon Plastic
  • ABS Plastic
  • Resins
  • Stainless Steel
  • Gold & Silver
  • Titanium
  • Ceramic
  • Gypsum

Are you aware that today's 3D printer costs less than from what a laser printer was in 1985? The 3D printers of early times were big and inefficient, With up and coming technology, soon anyone will have the capability to produce anything they want right at home, whenever they want. Create jewelry, toys, small pieces of art, household goods such as vases, beer mugs and coffee cups and much more. If you can think of it and design it on the computer, then you can build it. You can find a number of various 3D printers on the market nowadays, all with somewhat different advantages, disadvantages, quirks and capabilities. However, large 3D printers can create models 2 feet high and across. The most current project was building a fully functional car.

Designers, engineers and manufacturers have been using 3D printers for over a 10 years. They primarily used them to make mockups of the product quickly before they launched into the expensive business of firing up a manufacturing facility to mass produce the real thing.

3D printing continues to be part of a number of industries and has achieved some important achievements:

  • In the world of fashion, architect Bradley Rothenberg body scanned the beautiful Victoria's Secret models to design and create each one a custom-fitting set of "angel wings" to walk around in during their lingerie show.
  • Scientists used 3D printing to make ears which helped kids with deformities.
  • Medical scientists, researchers and engineers have developed a flexible, 3D elastic membrane that could help predict cardiac disorders.
  • The researchers at Filton Process Control Engineering began making use of 3D printers to make prototype components for wind-tunnel testing.
  • NASA continues to use 3D printers to print components for their spacecrafts.
  • Professors use 3D designs to inspire pupils to enjoy learning boring subjects like chemistry, biology, art, mathematics, physics and history. Students from the Changsha University of Science and Technology in China produced a race car from 3D printed parts.
  • In dentistry world, 3D printers are widely-used to easily make precise models of tooth crowns, dental bridges, along with other orthodontic devices.

Here is a video of some 3D printer miracles and uses. Specifically, an ankle was created using a 3D printer to replace one that was cancerous.

As you can see the future for 3D printing seems very promising. It may be the fastest developing prototyping industry with revenues this year anticipated to be somewhere around a billion US dollars.