Summary of 3d printing

3D Printing Definition


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Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

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Updated November 29, 2021

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What Is 3D Printing?

Three-dimensional (3D) printing is an additive manufacturing process that creates a physical object from a digital design. The process works by laying down thin layers of material in the form of liquid or powdered plastic, metal or cement, and then fusing the layers together.

Key Takeaways

  • Three-dimensional (3D) printing is an additive manufacturing process in which a physical object is created from a digital design by printing thin layers of material and then fusing them together.
  • Some industries, such as hearing aids manufacturers, airline manufacturers, and car manufacturers, use 3D printing to create prototypes and mass produce their products using custom scans.
  • While it is currently too slow to be used in mass production, 3D printing technology is still evolving and has the potential to massively disrupt both the manufacturing logistics and inventory management industries.

Understanding 3D Printing

Since it was introduced, 3D printing technology has already increased manufacturing productivity. In the long-term, it has the potential to massively disrupt both the manufacturing, logistics, and inventory management industries, especially if it can be successfully incorporated into mass production processes.

Currently, 3D printing speeds are too slow to be used in mass production. However, the technology has been used to reduce the lead time in the development of prototypes of parts and devices, and the tooling needed to make them. This is hugely beneficial to small-scale manufacturers because it reduces their costs and the time to market, that is, the amount of time from a product being conceived until its being available for sale.

3D printing can create intricate and complex shapes using less material than subtractive manufacturing processes, such as drilling, welding, injection molding, and other processes. Making prototypes faster, easier, and cheaper allows for more innovation, experimentation, and product-based startups.

Industrial Uses

Car and aircraft manufacturers have taken the lead in 3D manufacturing, using the technology to transform unibody and fuselage design and production, and powertrain design and production. Boeing is using 3D-printed titanium parts in the construction of its 787 Dreamliner airliner. In 2017, General Electric created a helicopter engine with 16 parts instead of 900–an indication of how big an impact 3D printing could potentially have on supply chains.

In medical sciences, 3D printing is being used to customize implants. In the future, organs and body parts may be created using 3D printing techniques. In the fashion world, Nike, Adidas, and New Balance are using 3D printing to create their shoes. In the construction industry, companies around the world are making breakthroughs in 3D printing of the materials need to build homes. Using layers of concrete, homes can be built in 24 hours, which are stronger than regular cinder blocks and cost a fraction of the price.

In the manufacturing of hearing aids, 3D printing is now customary. The use of 3D printing accelerates the process of manufacturing and enables manufacturers to make custom hearing aids. Audiologists can use 3D scanners to create a custom prototype using reference points from the scan. Manufacturers can feed the scan into a 3D printing machine and after fine-tuning the materials and the ear shapes, print the entire hearing aids.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.

  1. Norsk Titanium. "Norsk Titanium to Deliver the World’s First FAA-Approved, 3D-Printed, Structural Titanium Components to Boeing." Accessed Aug. 23, 2021.

  2. General Electric. "An Epiphany Of Disruption: GE Additive Chief Explains How 3D Printing Will Upend Manufacturing." Accessed Aug. 23, 2021.

  3. Nike. "Nike Flyprint is the First Performance 3D Printed Textile Upper." Accessed Aug. 23, 2021.

  4. Adidas. "4DFWD: Data-Driven 3D Printed Performance Technology Designed to Move You Forward." Accessed Aug.23, 2021.

  5. New Balance. "New Balance Launches a Premium 3D Printing Platform." Accessed Aug. 23, 2021.

  6. Sonova. "3D Printing Technology for Improved Hearing." Accessed Aug. 23, 2021.

What is 3D Printing? - Technology Definition and Types

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a method of creating a three dimensional object layer-by-layer using a computer created design.

3D printing is an additive process whereby layers of material are built up to create a 3D part. This is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing processes, where a final design is cut from a larger block of material. As a result, 3D printing creates less material wastage.

This article is one of a series of TWI frequently asked questions (FAQs).

3D printing is also perfectly suited to the creation of complex, bespoke items, making it ideal for rapid prototyping.


  1. What materials can be used?
  2. History
  3. Technologies
  4. Process types
  5. How long does it take?
  6. Advantages and disadvantages
  7. What is an STL file?
  8. Industries
  9. Services
  10. FAQs


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There are a variety of 3D printing materials, including thermoplastics such as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), metals (including powders), resins and ceramics.

Who Invented 3D Printing?

The earliest 3D printing manufacturing equipment was developed by Hideo Kodama of the Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute, when he invented two additive methods for fabricating 3D models.

When was 3D Printing Invented?

Building on Ralf Baker's work in the 1920s for making decorative articles (patent US423647A), Hideo Kodama's early work in laser cured resin rapid prototyping was completed in 1981. His invention was expanded upon over the next three decades, with the introduction of stereolithography in 1984. Chuck Hull of 3D Systems invented the first 3D printer in 1987, which used the stereolithography process. This was followed by developments such as selective laser sintering and selective laser melting, among others. Other expensive 3D printing systems were developed in the 1990s-2000s, although the cost of these dropped dramatically when the patents expired in 2009, opening up the technology for more users.

There are three broad types of 3D printing technology; sintering, melting, and stereolithography.

  • Sintering is a technology where the material is heated, but not to the point of melting, to create high resolution items. Metal powder is used for direct metal laser sintering while thermoplastic powders are used for selective laser sintering.
  • Melting methods of 3D printing include powder bed fusion, electron beam melting and direct energy deposition, these use lasers, electric arcs or electron beams to print objects by melting the materials together at high temperatures.
  • Stereolithography utilises photopolymerization to create parts. This technology uses the correct light source to interact with the material in a selective manner to cure and solidify a cross section of the object in thin layers.

Types of 3D printing

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, processes have been categorised into seven groups by ISO/ASTM 52900 additive manufacturing - general principles - terminology. All forms of 3D printing fall into one of the following types:

  • Binder Jetting
  • Direct Energy Deposition
  • Material Extrusion
  • Material Jetting
  • Powder Bed Fusion
  • Sheet Lamination
  • VAT Polymerization
Binder Jetting

Binder jetting deposits a thin layer of powered material, for example metal, polymer sand or ceramic, onto the build platform, after which drops of adhesive are deposited by a print head to bind the particles together. This builds the part layer by layer and once this is complete post processing may be necessary to finish the build. As examples of post processing, metal parts may be thermally sintered or infiltrated with a low melting point metal such as bronze, while full-colour polymer or ceramic parts may be saturated with cyanoacrylate adhesive.

Binder jetting can be used for a variety of applications including 3D metal printing, full colour prototypes and large scale ceramic moulds.

Direct Energy Deposition

Direct energy depositioning uses focussed thermal energy such as an electric arc, laser or electron beam to fuse wire or powder feedstock as it is deposited. The process is traversed horizontally to build a layer, and layers are stacked vertically to create a part.

This process can be used with a variety of materials, including metals, ceramics and polymers.

Material Extrusion

Material extrusion or fused deposition modelling (FDM) uses a spool of filament which is fed to an extrusion head with a heated nozzle. The extrusion head heats, softens and lays down the heated material at set locations, where it cools to create a layer of material, the build platform then moves down ready for the next layer.

This process is cost-effective and has short lead times but also has a low dimensional accuracy and often requires post processing to create a smooth finish. This process also tends to create anisotropic parts, meaning that they are weaker in one direction and therefore unsuitable for critical applications.

Material Jetting

Material jetting works in a similar manner to inkjet printing except, rather than laying down ink on a page, this process deposits layers of liquid material from one or more print heads. The layers are then cured before the process begins again for the next layer. Material jetting requires the use of support structures but these can be made from a water-soluble material that can be washed away once the build is complete.

A precise process, material jetting is one of the most expensive 3D printing methods, and the parts tend to be brittle and will degrade over time. However, this process allows for the creation of full-colour parts in a variety of materials.

Powder Bed Fusion

Powder bed fusion (PBF) is a process in which thermal energy (such as a laser or electron beam) selectively fuses areas of a powder bed to form layer, and layers are built upon each other to create a part. One thing to note is that PBF covers both sintering and melting processes. The basic method of operation of all powder bed systems is the same: a recoating blade or roller deposits a thin layer of the powder onto the build platform, the powder bed surface is then scanned with a heat source which selectively heats the particles to bind them together. Once a layer or cross-section has been scanned by the heat source, the platform moves down to allow the process to begin again on the next layer. The final result is a volume containing one or more fused parts surrounded by unaffected powder. When the build is complete, the bed is fully raised to allow the parts to be removed from the unaffected powder and any required post processing to begin.

Selective laser sintering (SLS) is often used for manufacture of polymer parts and is good for prototypes or functional parts due to the properties produced, while the lack of support structures (the powder bed acts as a support) allows for the creation of pieces with complex geometries. The parts produced may have a grainy surface and inner porosity, meaning there is often a need for post processing.  

Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), selective laser melting (SLM) and electron beam powder bed fusion (EBPBF) are similar to SLS, except these processes create parts from metal, using a laser to bond powder particles together layer-by-layer. While SLM fully melts the metal particles, DMLS only heats them to the point of fusion whereby they join on a molecular level. Both SLM and DMLS require support structures due to the high heat inputs required by the process. These support structures are then removed in post processing ether manually or via CNC machining. Finally, the parts may be thermally treated to remove residual stresses.

Both DMLS and SLM produce parts with excellent physical properties - often stronger than the conventional metal itself, and good surface finishes. They can be used with metal superalloys and sometimes ceramics which are difficult to process by other means. However, these processes can be expensive and the size of the produced parts is limited by the volume of the 3D printing system used.  

Sheet Lamination

Sheet lamination can be split into two different technologies, laminated object manufacturing (LOM) and ultrasonic additive manufacturing (UAM). LOM uses alternate layers of material and adhesive to create items with visual and aesthetic appeal, while UAM joins thin sheets of metal via ultrasonic welding. UAM is a low temperature, low energy process that can be used with aluminium, stainless steel and titanium.

VAT Photopolymerization

VAT photopolymerization can be broken down into two techniques; stereolithography (SLA) and digital light processing (DLP). These processes both create parts layer-by-layer through the use of a light to selectively cure liquid resin in a vat. SLA uses a single point laser or UV source for the curing process, while DLP flashes a single image of each full layer onto the surface of the vat. Parts need to be cleaned of excess resin after printing and then exposed to a light source to improve the strength of the pieces. Any support structures will also need to be removed and additional post-processing can be used to create a higher quality finish.  

Ideal for parts with a high level of dimensional accuracy, these processes can create intricate details with a smooth finish, making them perfect for prototype production. However, as the parts are more brittle than fused deposition modelling (FDM) they are less suited to functional prototypes. Also, these parts are not suitable for outdoor use as the colour and mechanical properties may degrade when exposed to UV light from the sun. The required support structures can also leave blemishes that need post processing to remove.

The printing time depends on a number of factors, including the size of the part and the settings used for printing. The quality of the finished part is also important when determining printing time as higher quality items take longer to produce. 3D printing can take anything from a few minutes to several hours or days - speed, resolution and the volume of material are all important factors here.

The advantages of 3D printing include:

  • Bespoke, cost-effective creation of complex geometries:
    This technology allows for the easy creation of bespoke geometric parts where added complexity comes at no extra cost. In some instances, 3D printing is cheaper than subtractive production methods as no extra material is used.
  • Affordable start-up costs:
    Since no moulds are required, the costs associated with this manufacturing process are relatively low. The cost of a part is directly related to the amount of material used, the time taken to build the part and any post processing that may be required.
  • Completely customisable:
    Because the process is based upon computer aided designs (CAD), any product alterations are easy to make without impacting the manufacturing cost.
  • Ideal for rapid prototyping:
    Because the technology allows for small batches and in-house production, this process is ideal for prototyping, which means that products can be created faster than with more traditional manufacturing techniques, and without the reliance on external supply chains.
  • Allows for the creation of parts with specific properties:
    Although plastics and metals are the most common materials used in 3D printing, there is also scope for creating parts from specially tailored materials with desired properties. So, for example, parts can be created with high heat resistance, water repellency or higher strengths for specific applications.

The disadvantages of 3D printing include:

  • Can have a lower strength than with traditional manufacture:
    While some parts, such as those made from metal, have excellent mechanical properties, many other 3D printed parts are more brittle than those created by traditional manufacturing techniques. This is because the parts are built up layer-by-layer, which reduces the strength by between 10 and 50%.
  • Increased cost at high volume:
    Large production runs are more expensive with 3D printing as economies of scale do not impact this process as they do with other traditional methods. Estimates suggest that when making a direct comparison for identical parts, 3D printing is less cost effective than CNC machining or injection moulding in excess of 100 units, provided the parts can be manufactured by conventional means.
  • Limitations in accuracy:
    The accuracy of a printed part depends on the type of machine and/or process used. Some desktop printers have lower tolerances than other printers, meaning that the final parts may slightly differ from the designs. While this can be fixed with post-processing, it must be considered that 3D printed parts may not always be exact.
  • Post-processing requirements:
    Most 3D printed parts require some form of post-processing. This may be sanding or smoothing to create a required finish, the removal of support struts which allow the materials to be built up into the designated shape, heat treatment to achieve specific material properties or final machining.

An STL file is a simple, portable format used by computer aided design (CAD) systems to define the solid geometry for 3D printable parts. An STL file provides the input information for 3D printing by modelling the surfaces of the object as triangles that share edges and vertices with other neighbouring triangles for the build platform. The resolution of the STL file impacts the quality of the 3D printed parts - if the file resolution is too high the triangle may overlap, if it is too low the model will have gaps, making it unprintable. Many 3D printers require an STL file to print from, however these files can be created in most CAD programs.

Due to the versatility of the process, 3D printing has applications across a range of industries, for example:


3D printing is used across the aerospace (and astrospace) industry due to the ability to create light, yet geometrically complex parts, such as blisks. Rather than building a part from several components, 3D printing allows for an item to be created as one whole component, reducing lead times and material wastage.


The automotive industry has embraced 3D printing due to the inherent weight and cost reductions. It also allows for rapid prototyping of new or bespoke parts for test or small-scale manufacture. So, for example, if a particular part is no longer available, it can be produced as part of a small, bespoke run, including the manufacture of spare parts. Alternatively, items or fixtures can be printed overnight and are ready for testing ahead of a larger manufacturing run.


The medical sector has found uses for 3D printing in the creation of made-to-measure implants and devices. For example, hearing aids can be created quickly from a digital file that is matched to a scan of the patient's body. 3D printing can also dramatically reduce costs and production times.


The rail industry has found a number of applications for 3D printing, including the creation of customised parts, such as arm rests for drivers and housing covers for train couplings. Bespoke parts are just one application for the rail industry, which has also used the process to repair worn rails. 


The speed of manufacture, design freedom, and ease of design customisation make 3D printing perfectly suited to the robotics industry. This includes work to create bespoke exoskeletons and agile robots with improved agility and efficiency.

TWI has one of the most definitive ranges of 3D Printing services, including selective laser melting, laser deposition, wire and arc additive manufacturing, wire and electron beam additive manufacturing and EB powder bed fusion small-scale prototyping, and more.

Additive Manufacturing

TWI provides companies with support covering every aspect of metal additive manufacturing (AM), from simple feasibility and fabrication projects to full adoption and integration of metal AM systems.

Laser Metal Deposition

TWI has been developing LMD technology for the last ten years. For full details of our capabilities in this area, and to find out more about the process and the benefits it can bring to your business.

Selective Laser Melting

TWI has been developing selective laser melting technology for the last decade. Find out full details of our capabilities in this area and the benefits it can bring to your business.

Can 3D Printing be used for Mass Production?

While there have been great advances in 3D printing, it still struggles to match other manufacturing techniques for high volume production. Techniques such as injection moulding allow for much faster mass production of parts.

Where is 3D Printing Heading in the Future?

As 3D printing technology continues to improve it could democratise the manufacture of goods. With printers becoming faster, they will be able to work on larger scale production projects, while lowering the cost of 3D printing will help its use spread outside of industrial uses and into homes, schools and other settings.

Which 3D Printing Material is most Flexible?

Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is commonly deemed to be the most flexible material available to the 3D printing industry. TPU possesses bendable and stretchy characteristics that many other filaments do not have.

Which 3D Printing Material is the Strongest?

Polycarbonate is seen as the strongest 3D printing material, with a tensile strength of 9,800 psi, compared to nylon, for example, with just 7,000 psi.

Why is 3D Printing Important?

3D printing is important for the many benefits it brings. It allows users to produce items that have geometries which are difficult or impossible for traditional methods to produce. It also allows users with a limited experience to edit designs and create bespoke, customised parts. On-demand 3D printing also saves on tooling costs and provides an advanced time-to-market. 3D printing is important for industries such as aerospace, where it can create lightweight yet complex parts, offering weight saving, the associated fuel reductions and a better environmental impact as a result. It is also important for the creation of prototypes that can advance industry.

Will 3D Printing Replace Traditional Manufacturing?

3D printing has the capability to disrupt traditional manufacturing through the democratisation of production along with the production of moulds, tools and other bespoke parts. However, challenges around mass production mean that 3D printing is unlikely to replace traditional manufacturing where high volume production of comparatively simple parts is required.

Are 3D Printing Fumes Dangerous?

3D printing fumes can be dangerous to your health as the process produces toxic filament fumes. These emissions are produced as the plastic filaments are melted to create the product layer-by-layer. However, correct procedures such as ensuring sufficient ventilation or using extractors can solve this issue.

Related Frequently Asked Question (FAQs)

What are the Pros and Cons of 3D Printing?

The demand is growing due to some of the revolutionary benefits that it can provide. Like almost all technologies it has its own drawbacks that need considering.

How Long Does 3D Printing Take?

There are several factors that determine the time it takes to 3D print a part. These include the size, height, complexity and the printing technology used.

Can 3D Printing Use Metal?

Yes, it is possible to 3D print items from metal. There are several types of process which fall under the heading of metal additive manufacturing.

What is Additive Manufacturing?

Additive manufacturing (AM) is a computer controlled process that creates three dimensional objects by depositing materials, usually in layers.


What is 3D printing and how it can be used! Interesting!

What is 3D printing

3D printing technology was patented in the 80s of the last century, but gained popularity relatively recently. New, promising techniques have been developed and the possibilities of 3D technologies have reached a completely new level. However, to this day, the technique is not known in all circles, and not everyone is aware of what 3D printing is. In today's article, we will try to explain in detail and in an accessible way what 3D printing is and where it is used.

In short, 3D printing is a technique for manufacturing three-dimensional products based on digital models. Regardless of the specific technology, the essence of the process is the gradual layer-by-layer reproduction of objects.
This process uses a special device - a 3D printer, which prints certain types of materials. More details about it are written here. Other names for the technology are rapid prototyping or additive manufacturing. Often the phrase "additive technologies" is used in the meaning of "3D technologies".

3D printing steps

To make it clearer what 3D printing is, let's take a look at the playback process step by step. Below are the specific stages of 3D printing. How it works:

  • 3D modeling of the required object is performed according to certain rules;
  • The file with the digital model is loaded into the slicer program, which generates the control code for the 3D printer;
  • Sets required 3D printing options;
  • The code is written to a removable memory that connects to the 3D printer;
  • 3D model reproduced.

Objects are reproduced gradually. According to the required shape, the selected material is applied layer by layer, forming the finished product. It is worth noting that the possibilities of 3D printing are almost limitless, that is, anything can be made. In some technologies, very thin overhanging elements are provided with supports, thanks to which they can be avoided from sagging.
Naturally, this is a very simplified description of the stages of 3D printing, but they give a very clear idea of ​​the essence of the technique.

Other questions and answers about 3D printers and 3D printing:

  • Basics What is 3D scanning?
  • Basics What is a 3D model?

3D Printing Technologies

Different 3D printing technologies are used to reproduce different objects. They differ both in the consumables used, and in the speed and accuracy of printing. Here are the main 3D printing technologies:

  • Fused deposition modeling (FDM) . One of the most common 3D printing technologies, used in most desktop 3D printers, and represents an ideal price / quality ratio. Printing occurs by layer-by-layer supply of a thread of molten plastic;
  • Laser stereolithography (SLA) . The formation of the object occurs due to the layer-by-layer illumination of a liquid photopolymer resin by a laser, which hardens under the influence of radiation. One of the variations of this technology is DLP 3D printing. It uses a special projector instead of a laser. Both 3D printing methods are used to create objects with a high degree of detail. In the case of DLP printing, speed is also an added advantage;
  • Selective laser sintering (SLS) . Reproduction is performed by layer-by-layer melting of a special powder under the action of laser radiation. This 3D printing method is widely used in the industry for the manufacture of durable metal elements

3D Printing Applications

As you may have guessed by now, 3D printing is extremely versatile. The second name of the technology - rapid prototyping - speaks for itself. In the manufacture of prototypes and models of models, 3D printing can be simply indispensable. It is also a very cost-effective solution for small-scale production. In the aerospace and automotive industries, 3D technologies are already being used with might and main due to the high profitability and speed of manufacturing components. Culinary professionals are working on the development of 3D food printers, and in medicine, 3D printing has become something of a technology of the future. With the help of 3D bioprinting, it is planned to produce bones, organs and living tissues, but for now, implants and full-fledged medicines are printed on 3D printers. Desktop 3D printers can be used for domestic purposes: for repairs, making various household items, and so on. And designers, fashion designers, sculptors and artists appreciate the possibilities of 3D printing and 3D modeling as an unusual way to realize their talent.

Well, that was a brief description of what 3D printing is. We hope we were able to provide the necessary information in an accessible way. If you have additional questions that we have not covered, write to us by e-mail and we, if necessary, will add your questions! Best regards, 3DDevice team.

We also want to remind you about the possibility to order 3D printing, 3D scanning, 3D modeling services or purchase of related equipment and consumables with delivery throughout Ukraine in 3DDevice. If you have any questions, please contact us at one of the phone numbers listed here. We look forward to collaborating!

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All about 3D printing. additive manufacturing. Basic concepts.

  • 1 Technology
  • 2 Terminology
  • 3 Fundamentals
  • 4 Print Technologies
  • 5 3D printers
  • 6 Application
  • 7 Domestic and hobby use
  • 8 Clothing
  • 9 3D bioprinting
  • 10 3D printing of implants and medical devices
  • 11 3D printing services
  • 12 Research into new applications
  • 13 Intellectual Property
  • 14 Influence of 3D printing
  • 15 Space research
  • 16 Social change
  • 17 Firearms


Charles Hull - the father of modern 3D printing
3D printing is based on the concept of building an object in successive layers that display the contours of the model. In fact, 3D printing is the complete opposite of traditional mechanical production and processing methods such as milling or cutting, where the appearance of the product is formed by removing excess material (so-called "subtractive manufacturing").
3D printers are computer-controlled machines that build parts in an additive way. Although 3D printing technology appeared in the 80s of the last century, 3D printers were widely used commercially only in the early 2010s. The first viable 3D printer was created by Charles Hull, one of the founders of 3D Systems Corporation. At the beginning of the 21st century, there was a significant increase in sales, which led to a sharp drop in the cost of devices. According to the consulting firm Wohlers Associates, the global market for 3D printers and related services reached $2.2 billion in 2012, growing by 29%.% compared to 2011.
3D printing technologies are used for prototyping and distributed manufacturing in architecture, construction, industrial design, automotive, aerospace, military, engineering and medical industries, bioengineering (to create artificial fabrics), fashion and footwear, jewelry, education, geographic information systems, food industry and many other areas. According to research, open source home 3D printers will allow you to win back the capital costs of your own purchase through the economy of household production of items.


Additive manufacturing involves the construction of objects by adding the necessary material, and not by removing excess, as is the case with subtractive methods
The term "additive manufacturing" refers to the technology of creating objects by applying successive layers material. Models made using the additive method can be used at any stage of production - both for the production of prototypes (so-called rapid prototyping) and as finished products themselves (so-called rapid production).
In manufacturing, especially machining, the term "subtractive" implies more traditional methods and is a retronym coined in recent years to distinguish between traditional methods and new additive methods. Although traditional manufacturing has used essentially "additive" methods for centuries (such as riveting, welding, and screwing), they lack a 3D information technology component. Machining, on the other hand, (the production of parts of an exact shape), as a rule, is based on subtractive methods - filing, milling, drilling and grinding.
The term "stereolithography" was defined by Charles Hull in a 1984 patent as "a system for generating three-dimensional objects by layering".


3D printed models

3D models are created by hand-held computer graphic design or 3D scanning. Hand modeling, or the preparation of geometric data for the creation of 3D computer graphics, is somewhat like sculpture. 3D scanning is the automatic collection and analysis of data from a real object, namely shape, color and other characteristics, with subsequent conversion into a digital three-dimensional model.
Both manual and automatic creation of 3D printed models can be difficult for the average user. In this regard, 3D printed marketplaces have become widespread in recent years. Some of the more popular examples include Shapeways, Thingiverse, and Threeding.
3D printing

The following digital models are used as drawings for 3D printed objects , powder, paper or sheet material, building a 3D model from a series of cross sections. These layers, corresponding to virtual cross-sections in the CAD model, are connected or fused together to create an object of a given shape. The main advantage of this method is the ability to create geometric shapes of almost unlimited complexity.
"Resolution" of the printer means the thickness of the applied layers (Z-axis) and the accuracy of positioning the print head in the horizontal plane (along the X and Y axes). Resolution is measured in DPI (dots per inch) or micrometers (the obsolete term is "micron"). Typical layer thicknesses are 100µm (250 DPI), although some devices like the Objet Connex and 3D Systems ProJet are capable of printing layers as thin as 16µm (1600 DPI). The resolution on the X and Y axes is similar to that of conventional 2D laser printers. A typical particle size is about 50-100µm (510 to 250 DPI) in diameter.

One of the methods for obtaining a digital model is 3D scanning. Pictured here is a MakerBot Digitizer
3D Scanner Building a model using modern technology takes hours to days, depending on the method used and the size and complexity of the model. Industrial additive systems can typically reduce the time to a few hours, but it all depends on the type of plant, as well as the size and number of models produced at the same time.
Traditional manufacturing methods such as injection molding can be cheaper for large-scale production of polymer products, but additive manufacturing has advantages for small-scale production, allowing for higher production rates and design flexibility, along with increased unit cost. In addition, desktop 3D printers allow designers and developers to create concept models and prototypes without leaving the office.

FDM Type 3D Printers
Although the resolution of the printers is adequate for most projects, printing slightly oversized objects and then subtractive machining with high precision tools allows you to create models of increased accuracy.
The LUMEX Avance-25 is an example of devices with a similar combined manufacturing and processing method. Some additive manufacturing methods allow for the use of multiple materials, as well as different colors, within a single production run. Many of the 3D printers use "supports" or "supports" during printing. Supports are needed to build model fragments that are not in contact with the underlying layers or the working platform. The supports themselves are not part of the given model, and upon completion of printing, they either break off (in the case of using the same material as for printing the model itself), or dissolve (usually in water or acetone - depending on the material used to create the supports). ).

Printing technologies

Since the late 1970s, several 3D printing methods have come into being. The first printers were large, expensive and very limited.

Complete skull with supports not yet removed

A wide variety of additive manufacturing methods are now available. The main differences are in the layering method and consumables used. Some methods rely on melting or softening materials to create layers: these include selective laser sintering (SLS), selective laser melting (SLM), direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), fusing deposition printing (FDM or FFF). Another trend has been the production of solid models by polymerization of liquid materials, known as stereolithography (SLA).
In the case of lamination of sheet materials (LOM), thin layers of material are cut to the required contour, and then joined into a single whole. Paper, polymers and metals can be used as LOM materials. Each of these methods has its own advantages and disadvantages, which is why some companies offer a choice of consumables for building a model - polymer or powder. LOM printers often use regular office paper to build durable prototypes. The key points when choosing the right device are the speed of printing, the price of a 3D printer, the cost of printed prototypes, as well as the cost and range of compatible consumables.

Printers that produce full-fledged metal models are quite expensive, but it is possible to use less expensive devices for the production of molds and subsequent casting of metal parts.
The main methods of additive manufacturing are presented in the table:

Method Technology Materials used
Extrusion Fused deposition modeling (FDM or FFF) Thermoplastics (such as polylactide (PLA), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), etc. )
Wire Manufacture of arbitrary shapes by electron beam fusing (EBFȝ) Virtually all metal alloys
Powder Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) Virtually all metal alloys
Electron Beam Melting (EBM) Titanium alloys
Selective laser melting (SLM) Titanium alloys, cobalt-chromium alloys, stainless steel, aluminum
Selective heat sintering (SHS) Powder thermoplastics
Selective laser sintering (SLS) Thermoplastics, metal powders, ceramic powders
Inkjet 3D Inkjet(3DP) Gypsum, plastics, metal powders, sand mixtures
Lamination Lamination of objects (LOM) Paper, metal foil, plastic film
Polymerization Stereolithography (SLA) Photopolymers
Digital LED Projection (DLP) Photopolymers

Extrusion Printing

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM/FFF) was developed by S. Scott Trump in the late 1980s and commercialized in the 1990s by Stratasys, a company of which Trump is one of the founders. Due to the expiration of the patent, there is a large community of open source 3D printer developers as well as commercial organizations using the technology. As a consequence, the cost of devices has decreased by two orders of magnitude since the invention of the technology.
3D printers range from simple do-it-yourself devices to printing plastic...
Fusion printing process involves the creation of layers by extrusion of a fast-curing material in the form of microdrops or thin jets. Typically, consumable material (such as thermoplastic) comes in the form of spools from which the material is fed into a printhead called an "extruder". The extruder heats the material to its melting temperature, followed by extrusion of the molten mass through a nozzle. The extruder itself is driven by stepper motors or servomotors to position the print head in three planes. The movement of the extruder is controlled by a manufacturing software (CAM) linked to a microcontroller.
A variety of polymers are used as consumables, including acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polycarbonate (PC), polylactide (PLA), high pressure polyethylene (HDPE), polycarbonate-ABS blends, polyphenylene sulfone (PPSU), etc. Typically, polymer supplied in the form of a filler made of pure plastic. There are several projects in the 3D printing enthusiast community that aim to recycle used plastic into materials for 3D printing. The projects are based on the production of consumables using shredders and melters.

FDM/FFF technology has certain limitations on the complexity of the generated geometric shapes. For example, the creation of suspended structures (such as stalactites) is impossible by itself, due to the lack of necessary support. This limitation is compensated by the creation of temporary support structures that are removed after printing is completed.
Powder print

One of the additive manufacturing methods is selective sintering of powder materials. Model layers are drawn (sintered) in a thin layer of powdered material, after which the work platform is lowered and a new layer of powder is applied. The process is repeated until a complete model is obtained. The unused material remains in the working chamber and serves to support the overhanging layers without requiring the creation of special supports.

The most common methods are based on laser sintering: selective laser sintering (SLS) for working with metals and polymers (e.g. polyamide (PA), glass fiber reinforced polyamide (PA-GF), glass fiber (GF), polyetheretherketone) (PEEK), polystyrene (PS), alumide, carbon fiber reinforced polyamide (Carbonmide), elastomers) and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).
... to expensive industrial plants that work with metals
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) was developed and patented by Carl Deckard and Joseph Beeman of the University of Texas at Austin in the mid 1080s under the auspices of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). A similar method was patented by R. F. Householder in 1979, but has not been commercialized.

Selective laser melting (SLM) is characterized by the fact that it does not sinter, but actually melts the powder at the points of contact with a powerful laser beam, allowing you to create high-density materials that are similar in terms of mechanical characteristics to products made by traditional methods.

Electron Beam Melting (EBM) is a similar method for the additive manufacturing of metal parts (eg titanium alloys) but using electron beams instead of lasers. EBM is based on melting metal powders layer by layer in a vacuum chamber. In contrast to sintering at temperatures below melting thresholds, models made by electron beam melting are characterized by solidity with a corresponding high strength.

Finally, there is the 3D inkjet printing method. In this case, a binder is applied to thin layers of powder (gypsum or plastic) in accordance with the contours of successive layers of the digital model. The process is repeated until the finished model is obtained. The technology provides a wide range of applications, including the creation of color models, suspended structures, the use of elastomers. The design of models can be strengthened by subsequent impregnation with wax or polymers.


FDM 3D printers are the most popular among hobbyists and enthusiasts
Some printers use paper as a material for building models, thereby reducing the cost of printing. Such devices experienced the peak of popularity in the 1990s. The technology consists in cutting out the layers of the model from paper using a carbon dioxide laser with simultaneous lamination of the contours to form the finished product.

In 2005, Mcor Technologies Ltd developed a variant of the technology that uses plain office paper, a tungsten carbide blade instead of a laser, and selective adhesive application.

There are also device variants that laminate thin metal and plastic sheets.


3D printing allows you to create functional monolithic parts of complex geometric shapes, like this jet engine nozzle
Stereolithography technology was patented by Charles Hull in 1986. Photopolymerization is primarily used in stereolithography (SLA) to create solid objects from liquid materials. This method differs significantly from previous attempts, from the sculptural portraits of François Willem (1830-1905) to photopolymerization by the Matsubara method (1974).

The Digital Projection Method (DLP) uses liquid photopolymer resins that are cured by exposure to ultraviolet light emitted from digital projectors in a coated working chamber. After the material has hardened, the working platform is immersed to a depth equal to the thickness of one layer, and the liquid polymer is irradiated again. The procedure is repeated until the completion of the model building. An example of a rapid prototyping system using digital LED projectors is the EnvisionTEC Perfactory.

Inkjet printers (eg Objet PolyJet) spray thin layers (16-30µm) of photopolymer onto the build platform until a complete model is obtained. Each layer is irradiated with an ultraviolet beam until hardened. The result is a model ready for immediate use. The gel-like support material used to support the components of geometrically complex models is removed after the model has been handcrafted and washed. The technology allows the use of elastomers.

Ultra-precise detailing of models can be achieved using multiphoton polymerization. This method is reduced to drawing the contours of a three-dimensional object with a focused laser beam. Due to non-linear photoexcitation, the material solidifies only at the focusing points of the laser beam. This method makes it easy to achieve resolutions above 100 µm, as well as build complex structures with moving and interacting parts.

Another popular method is curing with LED projectors or "projection stereolithography".

Projection stereolithography

This method involves dividing a 3D digital model into horizontal layers, converting each layer into a 2D projection similar to photomasks. The 2D images are projected onto successive layers of photopolymer resin that harden according to the projected contours.

In some systems, the projectors are located below, helping to level the surface of the photopolymer material when the model moves vertically (in this case, the build platform with the applied layers moves up, rather than sinking into the material) and reduces the production cycle to minutes instead of hours.

The technology allows you to create models with layers of several materials with different curing rates.

Some commercial models, such as the Objet Connex, apply resin using small nozzles.

3D printers

Industrial plants

Industrial adoption of additive manufacturing is proceeding at a rapid pace. For example, US-Israeli joint venture Stratasys supplies $2,000 to $500,000 additive manufacturing machines, while General Electric uses high-end machines to produce gas turbine parts.
Home appliances

LOM takes papier-mâché to the next level The development of 3D printers for home use is being pursued by a growing number of companies and enthusiasts. Most of the work is done by amateurs for their own and public needs, with help from the academic community and hackers.

The oldest and longest running project in the desktop 3D printer category is RepRap. The RepRap project aims to create free and open source (FOSH) 3D printers provided under the GNU General Public License. RepRap devices are capable of printing custom-designed plastic components that can be used to build clones of the original device. Individual RepRap devices have been successfully applied to the production of printed circuit boards and metal parts.

Due to the open access to drawings of RepRap printers, many of the projects adopt the technical solutions of analogues, thus creating a semblance of an ecosystem consisting mostly of freely modifiable devices. The wide availability of open source designs only encourages variations. On the other hand, there is a significant variation in the level of quality and complexity of both the designs themselves and the devices manufactured on their basis. The rapid development of open source 3D printers is leading to a rise in popularity and the emergence of public and commercial portals (such as Thingiverse or Cubify) offering a variety of printable 3D designs. In addition, the development of technology contributes to the sustainable development of local economies through the possibility of using locally available materials for the production of printers.
Stereolithographic 3D printers are often used in dental prosthetics

The cost of 3D printers has been declining at a significant rate since about 2010: devices that cost $20,000 at the time are now $1,000 or less. Many companies and individual developers are already offering budget RepRap kits under $500. The [email protected] open source project has led to the development of general purpose printers capable of printing anything that can be squeezed through a nozzle, from chocolate to silicone putty and chemicals.
Printers based on this design have been available as kits since 2012 for around $2,000. Some 3D printers, including the mUVe 3D and Lumifold, are designed to be as affordable as possible from the start, with the Peachy Printer priced around $100. .
Professional Kickstarter-funded printers often perform well: Rapide 3D printers are quiet and fumes-free at $1499. 3D Doodler's '3D Printing Pen' Raised $2.3M in Kickstarter donations, with a selling price of $99 for the device itself. True, it is difficult to call the 3D Doodler a full-fledged 3D printer.

3D Systems Cube is a popular consumer 3D printer

As prices fall, 3D printers are becoming more attractive for home production. In addition, home use of 3D printing technologies can reduce the environmental footprint of industry by reducing the volume of consumables and the energy and fuel costs of transporting materials and goods.

Parallel to the creation of home 3D-printing devices, the development of devices for processing household waste into printed materials, the so-called. Recyclebot. For example, the commercial model Filastrucer was designed to recycle plastic waste (shampoo bottles, milk containers) into inexpensive consumables for RepRap printers. Such methods of household disposal are not only practical, but also have a positive impact on the ecological situation.

The development and customization of RepRap 3D printers has created a new category of semi-professional printers for small businesses. Manufacturers such as Solidoodle, RoBo and RepRapPro offer kits for under $1,000. The accuracy of these devices is between industrial and consumer printers. Recently, high-performance printers using a delta-shaped coordinate system, or the so-called "delta robots", are gaining popularity. Some companies offer software to support printers made by other companies.


The use of LED projectors helps reduce the cost of stereolithography printers. In the illustration DLP printer Nova

3D printing allows you to equalize the cost of production of one part and mass production, which poses a threat to economies of scale. The impact of 3D printing may be similar to the introduction of manufacture. In the 1450s, no one could predict the consequences of the printing press, in the 1750s, no one took the steam engine seriously, and transistors 19The 50s seemed like a curious innovation. But the technology continues to evolve and is likely to have an impact on every scientific and industrial branch with which it comes into contact.

The earliest application of additive manufacturing can be considered rapid prototyping, aimed at reducing the development time of new parts and devices compared to earlier subtractive methods (too slow and expensive). The improvement of additive manufacturing technologies leads to their spread in various fields of science and industry. The production of parts previously only available through machining is now possible through additive methods, and at a better price.
Applications include breadboarding, prototyping, molding, architecture, education, mapping, healthcare, retail, etc.
Industrial applications:
Rapid prototyping: Industrial 3D printers have been used for rapid prototyping and research since the early 1980s . As a rule, these are quite large installations using powder metals, sand mixtures, plastics and paper. Such devices are often used by universities and commercial companies.

Advances in rapid prototyping have led to the creation of materials suitable for the production of final products, which in turn has contributed to the development of 3D production of finished products as an alternative to traditional methods. One of the advantages of fast production is the relatively low cost of manufacturing small batches.

Rapid production: Rapid production remains a fairly new technique whose possibilities have not yet been fully explored. Nevertheless, many experts tend to consider rapid production a new level of technology. Some of the most promising areas for rapid prototyping to adapt to rapid manufacturing are selective laser sintering (SLS) and direct metal sintering (DMLS).
Bulk customization: Some companies offer services for customizing objects using simplified software and then creating unique custom 3D models. One of the most popular areas was the manufacture of cell phone cases. In particular, Nokia has made publicly available the designs of its phone cases for user customization and 3D printing.
Mass production: The current low print speed of 3D printers limits their use in mass production. To combat this shortcoming, some FDM devices are equipped with multiple extruders, allowing you to print different colors, different polymers, and even create several models at the same time. In general, this approach increases productivity without requiring the use of multiple printers - a single microcontroller is enough to operate multiple printheads.

Devices with multiple extruders allow the creation of several identical objects from only one digital model, but at the same time allow the use of different materials and colors. The print speed increases in proportion to the number of print heads. In addition, certain energy savings are achieved through the use of a common working chamber, which often requires heating. Together, these two points reduce the cost of the process.

Many printers are equipped with dual printheads, however this configuration is only used for printing single models in different colors and materials.

Consumer and hobby use

Today, consumer 3D printing mainly attracts the attention of enthusiasts and hobbyists, while practical use is rather limited. However, 3D printers have already been used to print working mechanical clocks, woodworking gears, jewelry, and more. Home 3D printing websites often offer designs for hooks, doorknobs, massage tools, and more.

3D printing is also being used in hobby veterinary medicine and zoology – in 2013, a 3D printed prosthesis allowed a duckling to stand up, and hermit crabs love stylish 3D printed shells. 3D printers are widely used for the domestic production of jewelry - necklaces, rings, handbags, etc.

The [email protected] open project aims to develop general purpose home printers. The devices have been tested in research environments using the latest 3D printing technologies for the production of chemical compounds. The printer can print any material suitable for extrusion from a syringe in the form of a liquid or paste. The development is aimed at the possibility of home production of medicines and household chemicals in remote areas of residence.

Student project OpenReflex resulted in a design for an analog SLR camera suitable for 3D printing.


3D printing is gaining ground in the fashion world as couturiers use printers to experiment with swimwear, shoes and dresses. Commercial applications include rapid prototyping and 3D printing of professional athletic shoes - the Vapor Laser Talon for soccer players and New Balance for track and field athletes.

3D bioprinting

EBM titanium medical implants

3D printing is currently being researched by biotech companies and academic institutions. The research is aimed at exploring the possibility of using inkjet/drip 3D printing in tissue engineering to create artificial organs. The technology is based on the application of layers of living cells on a gel substrate or sugar matrix, with a gradual layer-by-layer build-up to create three-dimensional structures, including vascular systems. The first 3D tissue printing production system based on NovoGen bioprinting technology was introduced in 2009year. A number of terms are used to describe this research area: organ printing, bioprinting, computer tissue engineering, etc.

One of the pioneers of 3D printing, research company Organovo, conducts laboratory research and develops the production of functional 3D human tissue samples for use in medical and therapeutic research. For bioprinting, the company uses a NovoGen MMX 3D printer. Organovo believes that bioprinting will speed up the testing of new medicines before clinical trials, saving time and money invested in drug development. In the long term, Organovo hopes to adapt bioprinting technology for graft and surgical applications.

3D printing of implants and medical devices

3D printing is used to create implants and devices used in medicine. Successful surgeries include examples such as titanium pelvic and jaw implants and plastic tracheal splints. The most widespread use of 3D printing is expected in the production of hearing aids and dentistry. In March 2014, Swansea surgeons used 3D printing to reconstruct the face of a motorcyclist who was seriously injured in a road accident.

3D printing services

Some companies offer online 3D printing services available to individuals and industrial companies. The customer is required to upload a 3D design to the site, after which the model is printed using industrial installations. The finished product is either delivered to the customer or subject to pickup.

Exploring new applications

3D printing makes it possible to create fully functional metal products, including weapons.
Future applications of 3D printing may include the creation of open source scientific equipment for use in open laboratories and other scientific applications - fossil reconstruction in paleontology, the creation of duplicates of priceless archaeological artifacts, the reconstruction of bones and body parts for forensic examination, the reconstruction of heavily damaged evidence collected from crime scenes. The technology is also being considered for application in construction.

In 2005, academic journals began to publish materials on the possibility of using 3D printing technologies in art. In 2007, the Wall Street Journal and Time magazine included 3D design in their list of the 100 most significant achievements of the year. The Victoria and Albert Museum at the London Design Festival in 2011 presented an exhibition by Murray Moss entitled "Industrial Revolution 2.0: how the material world materializes again", dedicated to 3D printing technologies.

In 2012, a University of Glasgow pilot project showed that 3D printing could be used to produce chemical compounds, including hitherto unknown ones. The project printed chemical storage vessels into which “chemical ink” was injected using additive machines and then reacted. The viability of the technology was proven by the production of new compounds, but a specific practical application was not pursued during the experiment. Cornell Creative Machines has confirmed the feasibility of creating food products using hydrocolloid 3D printing. Professor Leroy Cronin of the University of Glasgow has suggested using "chemical ink" to print medicines.

The use of 3D scanning technologies makes it possible to create replicas of real objects without the use of casting methods, which are expensive, difficult to perform and can have a destructive effect in cases of precious and fragile objects of cultural heritage.

An additional example of 3D printing technologies under development is the use of additive manufacturing in construction. This could make it possible to accelerate the pace of construction while reducing costs. In particular, the possibility of using technology to build space colonies is being considered. For example, the Sinterhab project aims to explore the possibility of additive manufacturing of lunar bases using lunar regolith as the main building material. Instead of using binding materials, the possibility of microwave sintering of regolith into solid building blocks is being considered.

Additive manufacturing allows you to create waveguides, sleeves and bends in terahertz devices. The high geometric complexity of such products could not be achieved by traditional production methods. A commercially available professional EDEN 260V setup was used to create structures with a resolution of 100 microns. The printed structures were galvanized with gold to create a terahertz plasmonic apparatus.

China has allocated nearly $500 million. for the development of 10 national institutes for the development of 3D printing technologies. In 2013, Chinese scientists began printing living cartilage, liver and kidney tissue using specialized 3D bioprinters. Researchers at Hangzhou Dianqi University have even developed their own 3D bioprinter for this challenging task, dubbed Regenovo. One of Regenovo's developers, Xu Mingeng, said it takes less than an hour for the printer to produce a small sample of liver tissue or a four to five inch sample of ear cartilage. Xu predicts the emergence of the first full-fledged printed artificial organs within the next 10-20 years. That same year, researchers at the Belgian Hasselt University successfully printed a new jaw for an 83-year-old woman. After the implant is implanted, the patient can chew, talk and breathe normally.

In Bahrain, sandstone-like 3D printing has created unique structures to support coral growth and restore damaged reefs. These structures have a more natural shape than previously used structures and do not have the acidity of concrete.

Intellectual property

Section of liver tissue printed by Organovo, which is working to improve 3D printing technology for the production of artificial organs
3D printing has been around for decades, and many aspects of the technology are subject to patents, copyrights, and trademark protection. However, from a legal point of view, it is not entirely clear how intellectual property protection laws will be applied in practice if 3D printers become widely used.
distribution and will be used in household production of goods for personal use, non-commercial use or for sale.

Any of the protective measures may negatively affect the dissemination of designs used in 3D printing or the sale of printed products. The use of protected technologies may require the permission of the owner, which in turn will require the payment of royalties.

Patents cover certain processes, devices, and materials. The duration of patents varies from country to country.

Often, copyright extends to the expression of ideas in the form of material objects and lasts for the life of the author, plus 70 years. Thus, if someone creates a statue and obtains copyright, it will be illegal to distribute designs for printing of an identical or similar statue.

Influence of 3D printing

Additive manufacturing requires manufacturing companies to be flexible and constantly improve available technologies to stay competitive. Advocates of additive manufacturing predict that the opposition between 3D printing and globalization will escalate as home production displaces trade in goods between consumers and large manufacturers. In reality, the integration of additive technologies into commercial production serves as a complement to traditional subtractive methods, rather than a complete replacement for the latter.

Space exploration

In 2010, work began on the application of 3D printing in zero gravity and low gravity. The main goal is to create hand tools and more complex devices "as needed" instead of using valuable cargo volume and fuel to deliver finished products to orbit.
Even NASA is interested in 3D printing
At the same time, NASA is conducting joint tests with Made in Space to assess the potential of 3D printing to reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of space exploration. Nasa's additive-manufactured rocket parts were successfully tested in July 2013, with two fuel injectors performing on par with conventionally produced parts during operational tests subjecting the parts to temperatures of around 3,300°C and high pressure levels. It is noteworthy that NASA is preparing to launch a 3D printer into space: the agency is going to demonstrate the possibility of creating spare parts directly in orbit, instead of expensive transportation from the ground.

Social change

The topic of social and cultural change as a result of the introduction of commercially available additive technologies has been discussed by writers and sociologists since the 1950s. One of the most interesting assumptions was the possible blurring of boundaries between everyday life and workplaces as a result of the massive introduction of 3D printers into the home. It also points to the ease of transferring digital designs, which, in combination with local production, will help reduce the need for global transportation. Finally, copyright protection may change to reflect the ease of additive manufacturing of many products.


In 2012, US company Defense Distributed released plans to create a "design of a functional plastic weapon that could be downloaded and played by anyone with access to a 3D printer." Defense Distributed has developed a 3D printed version of the receiver for the AR-15 rifle, capable of withstanding more than 650 shots, and a 30-round magazine for the M-16 rifle.

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