A 3D printer is a machine that can make things. The reason this is so cool is that these machines can make different kinds of things, in different materials, from one kind of machine.
There are many different kinds of 3D printers: from ones that print in plastic to those that use metal and even some that can print human tissue.
These printers can replace traditional manufacturing lines with a single machine in the same way home printers replaced the printing press. You wouldn’t want to 3D print 100,000 copies of your 3D model in the same way you wouldn’t want to print 100,000 copies of a book on your home printer—the time and cost to do this isn’t what these machines are meant for.
These printers facilitate mass customization: you no longer need to pick from two or three versions of a single product. With this technology a consumer will have endless options.
Let’s say you print a page of that book on your home printer, if you were to look closely (with a microscope) at ink on the page, you would see that the letters don’t just mark the paper, they’re actually slightly raised up off the surface of the page.
Multiply that by several thousands of times and this ink could theoretically be raised enough to create a 3D version of the letters. That’s the basic concept behind 3D printing, except instead of using ink, they use other (thicker) materials to make physical models.
How does this work?
First you have to create a 3D digital model of whatever it is you want to print. The good thing is you don’t need a special computer to do this and there is plenty of free software available to help you do this. Then you upload your 3D model to 1click3dprint.com and let us take care of the rest. The 3D printing process turns a digital object into tiny slices (cross-sections), then lays down each slice, sticking each slice together until it makes a physical object. These slices can be pretty complicated, and some 3D printers can make things with moving parts like cranks and hinges.
Why 3D print?
3D printing means you can simply print a replacement part instead of trying to order one online (only to discover that they’re out of stock). That’s a whole new world from the one we live in today, and it’s only just beginning. Items could be made to order to fit your specific needs. Phone cases that fit your hand perfectly, some furniture for that awkwardly shaped corner in your house, just about anything you can think of. 3D printing allows for inexpensive, personalized manufacturing for the masses.
Can you really do anything?
Well, no. The costs of 3D printing aren’t about to do away with traditional manufacturing just yet. 3D printed parts are not going to match up perfectly with manufactured parts when it comes to finish, colors, material strength, and things like that. But, if what’s happened in the past is any indication, 3D printing capabilities will improve over time.