3D printing explained

3D Printing

When it comes to the evolution of 3D technology we’ve come a long way. What started out as trips to the cinema armed with blue and red lens paper glasses, has since become 3D televisions in our living rooms, and now 3D printers.

So far we’ve seen the Smithsonian Museum scan its artefacts that can then be shared through 3D printers, and UK fighter jets fly with parts made using the latest 3D printing technology.

But if you’re unsure just what exactly this latest innovation is, we’re here to help and give you the 3D printing lowdown.

What is a 3D printer?

Essentially, a 3D printer is a next -generation machine which can produce solid objects in a variety of materials, from plastic toys to metal machine parts and even ceramic cups.

Although in their infancy, one 3D printer could potentially replace a traditional factory production line in the future.

Is it really printing?

Yes it really is. Look at a page of printed text and you’ll see that the letters actually sit on top of the surface of the paper. Repeating this process thousands of times over the same page would gradually build the layers of ink up on top of each other, eventually creating a 3D model of each letter.

How does it work?

The 3D printing process takes a solid object and slices it into multiple layers, then compiles these layers from the bottom up. Each of the slices stick together to recreate a perfect, fully-functioning replica of the original object.

3D Printing

What can it do?

Anything can be printed – even something as complex as a bicycle, with all the parts (handlebars, saddle, wheels and chain etc) ready assembled.

Even car manufacturers such as Ford are already enquiring about a future of printing spare parts for customers, meaning the possibilities are endless.

What’s next?

While we can’t guarantee that 3D printers will become a generic household appliance, industry professionals such as product designers and engineers will reap the benefits of the tech before us consumers.

Still a relatively new technology, the future of 3D printing is set to go from strength to strength. Soon we could be driving printed cars and even decorate our homes with artefacts we’re used to only finding in museums.