The effects of 3D printing
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing as it is often called, is a manufacturing process that has been developing steadily since 1984. Founded by Charles Hull, the process allows three-dimensional objects to be printed from digital data.
The process begins with a 3D model of the object, usually created by Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software or a scan of an existing product. Specialised software slices this model into cross-sectional layers, creating a computer file that is sent to the 3D printer. The 3D printer then creates the object by adding layers of material on top of each other until the physical object is created. 3D printers work like inkjet printers. Instead of ink, 3D printers deposit the desired material in successive layers to create a physical object from a digital file.
The technology that supports additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is more than 30 years old. Its recent popularity has been fuelled in part by patent expirations which are driving a wave of consumer-oriented printers. Prices have fallen, putting the technology within the reach of early adopters. 3D printing is democratising the manufacturing process and bringing a fundamental change in what we can design and what we can create.
Inside magazine issue 6, October 2014
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