3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a CAD file. The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.
3D printing is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing which is cutting out / hollowing out a piece of metal or plastic with for instance a milling machine. 3D printing enables you to produce complex (functional) shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods.
It all starts with the creation of a 3D model in your computer. This digital design is for instance a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file. A 3D model is either created from the ground up with 3D modeling software or based on data generated with a 3D scanner. With a 3D scanner you’re able to create a digital copy of an object.
3D printing technology is destined to transform almost every major industry and change the way we live, work, and play in the future. The 3D printing industry encompasses many forms of technologies and materials. When most people think of 3D printing they visualize a simple desktop 3D printer but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 3D printing can be divided into metal, fabrics, bio and a whole host of other industries. For this reason, it’s important to see it as a cluster of diverse industries with a myriad of different applications.
In the first half of 2017, Sculpteo’s state of 3D printing reported its uses in industrial sectors as:
- Consumer Goods (17%)
- Industrial Goods (17%)
- High Tech (13%)
- Services (9%)
- Healthcare sectors (7%)
3D Printing technology is widely used in Rapid Prototyping, Manufacturing, Automotive, Aviation, Aerospace, Medical, such as Bio-printing, Dental, Food, Fashion and Construction, Architecture, Consumer Products like Furniture, Lighting, Accessories or jewelry.