3D printing is a very popular subject at the moment. You will hear lots of people talking about it online, lots of demonstrations if you ever visit technology events and lots of public discussions about it from intrigued people.
But how does 3D printing work? If you are not familiar with the technology then it is a fascinating but bewildering subject. In fact its easy to think that 3D printing is just a thing of the future.
In this article we will aim to give a simple yet descriptive guide to 3D printing and how it actually works.
What is 3D printing?
First, lets discuss traditional printing as everyone knows it. technically speaking this is also called 2D printing. This is the process of laying ink onto a sheet of paper using various colors to form an image on the paper.
Normally this will be used to print text and photographs from a computer onto physical paper.
Technically speaking there is a 3D element to every day printing – the ink is layered onto the paper and as such is always marginally raised up from the surface of the paper.
In simple terms, 3D printing is very similar, except that it is layered many more times and thus becomes much more raised up that traditional printing. 3D printing also uses a completely different material – in fact many different materials can be used which also helps to form physical objects.
How does 3D printing work?
So how does 3d printing work? Well, 3d printers can use a range of different materials when printing, depending on the object that is being printed. Typically a 3d printer will use a type of plastic material.
The plastic normally comes in the form of a long thing strip or real – like a real of string, but plastic string.
The plastic string is fed into the 3d printer and the printer then spills out the plastic into the formation that has been pre-programmed into the machine.
The 3d printer then builds up layers of plastic to form the desired shape.
What are the current uses for 3D printing?
At the moment there are two main areas that 3d printing is really used in.
Firstly, 3d printing is used in a manufacturing setting. It can be used for building prototypes of products at a very low cost and it can also be used for actually manufacturing products.
3d printing is also being used on the retail market. 3d printers are now readily available in stores such as Maplin Electronics and whilst they are very popular, they are being used mostly for fun by individuals.
So how does 3d printing work? Well, if you really want to find out the finer details, then you can pick up a 3d printer for around £500.00 and find out for yourself.
What are the future possibilities for 3D printing?
The future possibilities of 3d printing are quite vast. Its not unreasonable to think that one day there will be large online product catalogues that your 3d printer has access to, you can then purchase, download and build products from that catalogue with a few clicks of your mouse.
Say for example that you want to purchase a replacement lightbulb, one day you may be able to order the plans for a lightbulb online and have it printed out there are then.
At the moment that may sound far fetched and it may not currently be possible, due to 3d printing being in its infancy. It will be possible one day though.