3D printing is known as a form of “additive manufacturing,” and this term in itself begins to describe how the process works. Basically, a 3D print-out is constructed by adding on layer after layer until the final item has been formed. But, before any of these steps can be taken, a digital concept has to be created.

How It Works

3D printers allow all sorts of design concepts to be sent through them, but before your design can make it out of the 3D printer, you have to begin by opening a piece of computer software that enables 3D design and get to work creating it.

The 3D printer is probably one of the most game-changing pieces of tech in the last few years, and while initially it was thought that consumers would hardly have the chance to play with this technology, there are already plenty of consumer models available.

3D printing is incredible in that you can turn just about anything in your imagination into a CAD drawing (Computer Aided Design) and then send it off to your printer. In a matter of minutes, you could be pulling out a tangible object that’s fully functional or fashionable (depending on your motivation for using the printer). This is an extremely exciting and satisfying process, but designing the CAD drawing is probably the most difficult step.

That’s why plenty of new startups are now offering 3D design services where they can take anyone’s design idea and make a printable concept out of it. And, for consumers that don’t yet have a 3D printer collecting dust in their home, most cities have a tech lab somewhere nearby where they can send their CAD to be printed.

To print a 3D object, the printer will look at the CAD design and then break it down into thousands of 2D layers so it can begin layering them on one another. The object will eventually be complete (usually within a matter of minutes).

The Potential

People have already begun printing delicious creations by using sugar as their base material. Other materials include plastics, rubbers, and similar items, but the possibilities are expected to continue expanding into the future with various options being added.

Anybody itching to have a 3D printer of their own just has to save up anywhere from $300 to $3,500--depending on what they want it to be able to do. However, like every piece of new technology, the price of 3D printers is expected to drop in the next few years as research and demand continue to increase.