Did you know the first 3D printer was created in the 1980s, and the first 3D printers to come to market were made in the mid 1990s by Stratasys with help from IBM?
What is 3D Printing?
3D printing is a manufacturing process in which material is laid down, layer by layer, to form a three-dimensional object. Although 3D printers employ a variety of materials (such as plastic or metal) and techniques, they share the ability to turn digital files containing three-dimensional data—whether created on a computer-aided design (CAD) or computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) program, or from a 3D scanner—into physical objects.
How Does 3D Printing Work?
3D Printers are similar to traditional printers but use a process for making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many thin, successive layers of a material called filament. These printers brings a digital object (its CAD representation) into a physical form by adding layer by layer of a chosen material.
What Are the Advantages of 3D Printing?
3D printing allows for flexible design. 3D printers can manufacture parts within hours, which speeds up the prototyping process. Printing on demand is another advantage as a lot of space to store inventory isn't needed. Parts created by 3D printing are strong and lightweight and their design and production are fast, minimizing waste.
3D printing is also being used in the medical sector to help save lives by printing organs for the human body such as livers, kidneys and hearts.
What Software Do I Need to Design 3D Prints?
Practically all 3D printers accept STL file format (named for stereolithography). These types of files can be produced by most any CAD software, from paid commercial packages like AutoCAD to free or open-source products such as Tinkercad, opens a new window and Blender, opens a new window.
For those not inclined to make their own 3D files, 3D object databases such as MakerBot's Thingiverse, opens a new window offer numerous 3D object files that can be downloaded and printed out.
What Are 3D Printing Services?
You don't have to own a 3D printer to benefit from one as many 3D printing services exists.
Arapahoe Libraries offer a free 3D printing service. For more information visit our 3D Printing page.
For more information check out these materials about 3D printing.