Three dimensional printing or 3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing.
3D printing uses sequential layering techniques to create a physical 3D model of just about any object or shape deriving from a digital blueprint drawn using a 3D Computer-Aided Design or CAD software. This is different from the traditional subtractive manufacturing process where materials are removed from a solid object or block until only the shape of the model remains. Unlike subtractive manufacturing, additive manufacturing does not waste any material as only the required amount is used to create the object.
How does 3D printing works? It uses an industrial machine or robot called a 3D printer that is controlled by a computer to print the digital model into a physical object. This is done by printing one layer of material over another based on the design until the object is completed. They are often used in the project and product management industries as a means of bringing prototypes to life throughout various stages of the product life cycle. So for example, a company is constructing a new building to house their offices and employees, those at the helm of the project would design a digital mock-up of what the final product should look like. After the digital version is completed, the printer is then used to create the real life form of the digital design.
The kind of layering technologies used to construct the final output will depend largely on the kind of machine or printer being used and there are many 3D printer designs. Generally, the printer will read the digital product from a 3D printable file and then sequentially layer resin, metal, plastic, or any other suitable material to build the model. The printer will work in conjunction with the 3D software such as a scanner that builds the model from the digital stage.
It is under the control of 3D computer software that printing is directed. Depending on the type of machine being used, the type of layering technique being employed, and the size of the model, 3D printing can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours or longer. Some techniques and machines are faster than others. The one you opt for will depend on your needs.