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3D Printing - An Introduction

This guide will provide a general introduction to 3D printing.

Quick Overview

Watch this short video for a very quick overview of 3D printing.

How Does it Work?

  • Uses melted, liquid, or semi-liquid material built layer by layer to create an object.

  • 3D objects are ‘sliced’ using specialized software and fed to the printer as X/Y/Z coordinates that tell the printer how to build the object.

  • Considered a disruptive technology, allowing people to design and create their own objects and parts.

  • Lowering prices are bringing 3D printers into homes and small businesses.

  • Businesses from aerospace to medicine are finding new and interesting ways to leverage the technology.

Factory to End User

Industrial

3D printing is being used heavily in the realms of industrial prototyping and engineering. Industrial grade machines can be gigantic, and printers are sometimes packaged together in a farm format. These machines can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $50,000 and up. These machines produce parts and prototypes for engineering, automotive, medical, and other industrial applications.

Picture of a large sized 3D printer, with a man removing printed parts from inside

Desktop

3D printers are also going in the other direction. Much like the personal computers of the past, they are growing smaller, more user friendly, and affordable. Once the realm of industry, then of hobbyists, many printers are now making their way into the average home. These machines cannot offer everything the industrial printers can, but they are still powerful machines and can often be customized. Desktop printers typically run anywhere between $200 and $2,500. They're usually small enough to fit on a desktop or to run comfortably in a garage.

Four people gathered around a 3D printer set on a desk

Images