What is 3D Printing and How Does It Work?

The world of 3D printing is rapidly growing and has become a component of the larger manufacturing ecosystem.

3D printing is going to become a mainstream technology for serial production in future.

So let’s learn about what is 3D printing? How does it work? What are its benefits and about 3D printers and other things.

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing is an automated procedure that involves adding material to a three-dimensional item rather than removing it (as in drilling or machining). The method is also called additive manufacturing and was developed in the late 1980s. 

It was originally commercially employed in the aerospace and automotive sectors as a rapid prototyping method.

3D printing enables the creation of complex shapes with far less material than traditional manufacturing methods.

3d printing
Source: Pixabay

Engineers, designers, educators, manufacturers, medical professionals, and amateurs all make use of the technology in a wide variety of ways.

What is 3D printing used for?

It is used in the field of Aerospace and Defence for producing air ducts (SLS), wall panels (FDM) and structural metal components.

It is used in the field of medicine for producing metal orthopedic implants, pharmaceutical testing, prosthetics.

In the construction industry for extrusion, powder bonding and additive welding.

There are various other industries where three-dimensional printing is used.

What are some examples of 3D Printing?

Some of the examples are:

  1. Prosthetic Limbs & Body Parts
  2. Bioprinting in Health Science
  3. Manufacturing
  4. Musical Instruments
  5. Firearms & Military
  6. Drawing
  7. Homes and Buildings
  8. Dentistry

Who Invented 3D Printing?

Charles (Chuck) Hull, the cofounder of 3D Systems, pioneered stereolithography, the solid imaging technology that is being used today (SLA).

This was the first commercially available method of doing 3D printing. He came up with the concept in the year 1983 while working with UV light to harden tabletop surfaces. He was granted a patent for the process in the year 1986.

Charles Hull is also credited with inventing the .STL file format, which is the most widely used format for 3D printing.

How does 3D printing work?

To make a three-dimensional printed item, an “additive process” is used. The three-dimensional item is constructed by layering material until the object is completed.

To create a 3D print, a digital file is required that specifies the location of the material to be printed. The most often used file format for this is G-code. This file effectively provides ‘coordinates’ that govern the printer’s horizontal and vertical movements – often referred to as the X, Y, and Z axes.

Three-dimensional printers may print these layers at varying thicknesses, referred as layer height. Similar to pixels on a screen, adding layers to print results in a higher “resolution”. This will provide a more attractive product but will take longer to print.

What Are the Benefits of 3D Printing?

The benefits are plenty – below are few worth noting.

1. Customizable Design

3D printing enables the creation and production of more complicated designs than is possible with the use of conventional manufacturing processes.

Traditional technologies put a lot of design constraints that get eliminated when 3D printing is used.

2. Print-On-Demand

As the 3D design files are produced using a 3D model as either a CAD or STL file, they are all kept in a virtual library that makes them easily accessible and printable whenever required.

Altering designs may be accomplished at a cheaper rate by editing individual files and avoiding the waste of out-of-date inventories and investing in tools.

3. Rapid Prototyping

3D printing can create items in a matter of hours, which expedites the prototyping process and this enables each stage to be completed more quickly.

4. Strong and Lightweight Components

Even though plastic is the most often used material for 3D printing, various metals may also be used. However, plastics have numerous benefits over metals due to their light weight.

This is especially very critical in business industries such as automotive and aerospace, where light-weighting is an issue and can result in increased fuel efficiency.

5. Fast Production

3D printing is fast and can create products in hours – depending on the design and complexity of the item to be produced.

Not only can 3D printing speed up the manufacturing process, but it can also speed up the design process by producing STL or CAD files that are ready to print.

6. Cost Effective

Being a one-step manufacturing method, it eliminates the time and related expenses involved while producing various tools.

Although purchasing 3D printing equipment might be costly, you can reduce this expense by outsourcing your project to a 3D printing service provider.

7. Accessibility

3D printers are becoming more and more accessible these days. Due to the easy access, it reduces time and avoids the high costs associated with more traditional manufacturing processes.

8. Eco-Friendly

As it reduces waste so it simply means it is beneficial for our environment.

What are some of the disadvantages of 3D printing?

Some of the limitations are:

  1. It takes a long time to 3D print something that can be made just as easily using traditional manufacturing methods.
  2. The size of the 3D printer is also a limitation of 3D printing.
  3. And finally, the majority of 3D printers can only print using a single material at a time.

What is the difference between additive manufacturing and 3D printing?

There isn’t any distinction between the two.

“Additive manufacturing” is simply a more technical term for 3D printing.

What are different types of 3D printing technologies?

1. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

Fused deposition modeling (FDM) is a technique for depositing thermal plastic filaments in a specified pattern using the melt extrusion method.

2. Stereolithography (SLA)

Stereolithography (SLA) is a Vat Photopolymerization family of additive manufacturing processes. An item is made with SLA by layering a polymer resin and curing it with an ultraviolet (UV) laser beam.

3. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) is a technique used in additive manufacturing. It makes things additively by fusing small polymer powder particles together locally by sintering them. Your plastic part will be built layer by layer, using your 3D model as a guide.

4. Selective Laser Melting (SLM)

SLM that is also known as direct metal laser melting (DMLM) or laser powder bed fusion (LPBF), is a rapid prototyping, 3D printing, or additive manufacturing (AM) technology that involves melting and fusing metallic powders together using a high-power-density laser.

5. Binder Jetting

Binder Jetting is a process in which a binder is selectively placed into the powder bed, bonding these regions together one layer at a time to make a solid object. Metals, sand, and granular ceramics are among the most typical materials utilized in Binder Jetting.

What is a 3D Printer?

3D Printers are capable of printing nearly anything into a physical form. They can be used to create interactive or static models for use in projects or other purposes.

How does a 3D Printer work?

A common 3D printer is fairly similar to an inkjet printer that is controlled by a computer.

3d printer

It constructs a three-dimensional model one layer at a time, from the bottom up, using a technique called fused depositional modeling (FDM).

The printer builds a model fully autonomously over the course of many hours by converting a three-dimensional CAD drawing into several two-dimensional cross-sectional layers—effectively independent two-dimensional prints that stack one on top of the other, but without the paper in between.

Rather than utilizing ink, which would never build to a significant volume, the printer deposits layers of molten plastic or powder and employs adhesive or ultraviolet radiation to fuse them together (and to the existing structure).

What Can 3D Printers Make?

3D printers can make a variety of goods such as shoe designs, furniture, wax castings for jewelry, machine tools, tripods, gift and novelty items, pencil holders, planters, earbud cases, and toys for babies.

What are some of the best 3D printers?

Some of the best printers for home and professional use are:

  • Original Prusa MINI
  • Ultimaker S3
  • TRILAB DeltiQ 2
  • Raise3D E2
  • CEL-UK RoboxPro
  • LulzBot Mini 2
  • Original Prusa i3 MK3S+
  • Creality Ender 3 V2
  • Biqu B1
  • Artillery Sidewinder X1 V4
  • Monoprice Voxel
  • FormLabs Form 3

Where Can I Get a 3D Printer?

You can easily get a 3D Printer from your local store, buy from the direct manufacturer, or you can also buy it from online stores such as Amazon, Target, and BestBuy.

How much does a 3D printer cost?

The cost of 3D printers varies depending on your individual requirements.

There are different types of 3D printers based on the size, features, quality, and performance, all of which can increase or decrease the price of a 3D printer.

The majority of entry-level 3D printers fall in the price of $200 to $500. The price of higher-end 3D printers can go up to $5,000 as well.

Industrial 3D printers are very expensive to buy and their prices range from $15,000 to $100,000 or more.

Is 3D printing worth it?

3D printing is really fun, however, it is not for everyone.

If your requirements are very less and you want to create a few products, then you can outsource the manufacturing process. In case, your needs are high, then go for it and it is worth it.

Is 3D printing works with plastic only?

No, it’s not true. Three-dimensional printing can be done using a wide range of materials such as metal.

What is the Best 3D Printing Software?

Some of the best software for 3D printing are:

  1. Autodesk Fusion 360
  2. Ultimaker Cura
  3. Autodesk AutoCAD
  4. Rhinoceros 3D
  5. MeshLab
  6. TinkerCAD
  7. CATIA
  8. Solidworks
  9. FreeCAD
  10. Creo
  11. Meshmixer
  12. Sculptris
  13. OpenSCAD
  14. BlocksCAD
  15. SketchUp Make

What are the best books for learning 3D Printing?

There are many books on this topic, however I would recommend that you can buy below three books:

  1. 3D Printing For Dummies
  2. Make: Getting Started with 3D Printing
  3. The 3D Printing Handbook

What is the global 3D Printing Market Size?

As per a report from Grand View Research, the worldwide 3D printing market was worth USD 13.78 billion in 2020, and it is predicted to increase at a 21% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from the year 2021 to 2028.

In 2020, 2.1 million 3D printers were shipped worldwide, with 15.3 million units predicted to be shipped by 2028.


What are 3D printing filaments?

In 3D printing, filament refers to the substance that the 3D printer uses to print.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on 3D Printing Technology

Where you can buy 3D printer filament?

You can buy from Amazon. You can get almost every type of 3D printer filament there. You can also buy direct from the manufacturer as well.

What software do I need for 3D printing?

You would need a 3D slicer to prepare an existing 3D model for 3D printing. Cura is a popular open-source 3D slicer. However, if you want to create your own 3D models then you will need 3D modeling software.

What is the best slicing software?

Cura is a best slicing software that was created by Ultimaker.

What are some of the best 3D modeling software for beginners?

3D Slash, Autodesk 123D, Sculptris and TinkerCAD are some of the best for beginners to get their hand dirty.

What are the most common file formats for 3D printing?

There are four common file formats:

1. STL: The most widely used 3D model format.
2. OBJ: Supported by all major slicing tools.
3. PLY: Polygon file format.
4. 3MF: Microsoft, Autodesk, HP, and Shapeways have created a new file format called 3MF.

How long does it take to print a 3D object?

Well it depends entirely on your 3D print’s quality settings, infill, and size, as well as the 3D printing technology used.

In general, 3D printing takes a long time – hours and not minutes.

What is 3D bioprinting?

The science of 3D printing functional tissues, bones, and organs for medicinal reasons is known as 3D bioprinting.

Final Thoughts

3D printing offers so many benefits such as speed, flexibility, and cost.

I hope this article gave you insight into 3D printing, 3D printers, benefits, disadvantages, market size.

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