All 3D printing revolves around the same principle: a digital model is turned into a physical object by the additive process of adding one layer of material at a time.
Traditionally, the process of making a complicated object was always subtractive, for example a CNC machine or injection moulding.
The great thing about 3D printing is that you do not need special tooling, for example a mould or cutting tool.
Instead, the object is created layer by layer until it is complete, which means anyone with a 3D printer and the digital rendering file can make that certain part.
3D printers do vary in their approach, for example some use a melted plastic filament and lay it onto the print.
Industrial printers use a laser to melt metal or plastic to print the required part.
Depending on the size of the part and the type of printer, the process can take anywhere from 4 to 18 hours.
One drawback is that after the printing process is complete, the part usually needs some form of post processing to achieve the required finish.
However, a great advantage to 3D printers over other manufacturing methods is the fact that they can be used to great prototypes quickly and easily.
The costs to produce these prototypes are usually much lower than the cost of creating tooling and creating the part that way.
This makes them extremely popular for companies that do a lot of in-house research and development, as they can make parts specific to their requirements and be in complete control of the whole process.
If a part is not satisfactory, the can tweak the digital modelling and simply make it again.
Between 2015 and 2017, more than 1 million 3D printers were sold globally, and the adoption rate of these printers by companies and individuals continues to grow as they become more popular.