What is 3D Printing

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

3D printing is a process by which a three-dimensional object is made from a digital 3D model. Oxford dictionary defines 3D Printing as “the action or process of making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many thin layers of a material in succession.”

Source: Forbes.com

It is also called additive manufacturing. In an additive process, object is made by placing sequential layers of solid until the article is created. Each layer is a finely cut flat cross-section of the final shape. Thus, it is different from the process of ‘subtractive manufacturing’ which involves hollowing out a piece of metal or plastic from a bigger block using attrition tools. This is the reason why 3D printing allows you to make objects using lesser material than traditional engineering procedures.

Source: fab.academany.org

The concept of 3D printing was laid as back as in 1974, by David E. H. Jones in the journal New Scientist. Later in 1984, person named Chuck Hull developed a method called “stereolithography” that made use of UV lasers to solidify photopolymer to create 3D objects part-by-part. Isn’t it bit older than you thought!

3D printing is today applied in variety of fields, some of which are discussed below:

  1. Medicine and health sector- 3D printing concepts are now being applied to make function specific tissues to transplantable organs. This is known by the term ‘bio-printing’. Other medical devices like prosthetic hand and artificial bones can be 3D printed too.
Source: spilasers.com

2. Apparel and fashion industry- the world of clothing and fashion has dived into 3D printing as well. Many companies are increasingly experimenting with 3D-printed shoes and dresses. For instance, in 2012, Nike used 3D printing to prototype customized football shoe for players of American football. 3D printing is finding space in manufacturing of moulds for making ornaments. Further, eyewear industry is embracing this technology to make on-demand eye frames.

3. Art and craft industry- 3D printing is becoming popular in the gifts industry, with products such as personalized models of art and dolls, in metal or plastic, and even consumable materials, like edible chocolate.

4. Automobile industry- In 2010, Urbee became the first ever car in the world to be mounted using 3D printed bodywork and car windows. Soon, other big manufacturers announced the use of 3D printed car spare parts in many of their models.

Urbee. Source: stratasys.com

5. Environmental use- In Bahrain, a sandstone-like material was used to create a unique coral-shaped structure, that encourage coral polyps to colonize and regenerate damaged reefs. With the ever-growing research and development in 3D printing the scope of more intense usage in environmental protection is huge.

6. Cultural usage- 3D printing has now been intensively used by in the heritage museums for preservation and restoration purposes by recreating missing pieces of their relics using the technology.

7. Other applications- The technology is being used to make numerous other objects like: Computer components, robots, 3D selfie models, soft sensors, actuators, face shields, …the list is huge

Footnotes:

  1. Wikipedia contributors. (2020, June 3). Applications of 3D printing. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 08:40, June 9, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Applications_of_3D_printing&oldid=960540349
  2. http://www.3dscanner.io/ and https://medium.com/@3DScannerApp/how-does-a-3d-scanning-app-work-52dc19f37606 : 3D scanning 3D printable models using a smartphone.

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