What is 3D Printing?

Additive manufacturing also known as 3D printing uses data computer-aided-design (CAD) software or 3D object scanners to direct hardware to deposit material, layer upon layer, in precise geometric shapes. As its name implies, additive manufacturing adds material to create an object.

While additive manufacturing seems new to many, it has actually been around for several decades. In the right applications, additive manufacturing delivers a perfect trifecta of improved performance, complex geometries and simplified fabrication. As a result, opportunities abound for those who actively embrace additive manufacturing.

The term “additive manufacturing” references technologies that grow three-dimensional objects one superfine layer at a time. Each successive layer bonds to the preceding layer of melted or partially melted material. Objects are digitally defined by computer-aided-design (CAD) software that is used to create .stl files that essentially "slice" the object into ultra-thin layers. This information guides the path of a nozzle or print head as it precisely deposits material upon the preceding layer. Or, a laser or electron beam selectively melts or partially melts in a bed of powdered material. As materials cool or are cured, they fuse together to form a three-dimensional object.

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