Last Update: Tuesday, 12 November, 2013 9:54 PM




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What is 3D Printing?

Google it! Oh, yes, that's why you've come here :)

3D Printing is the process of creating a three dimensional object layer by layer using a 3D printer - in short it turns a digital 3D model in your computer into a physical 3D model that you can touch!

3D Printing is a form of 'additive manufacturing', so instead of take a piece of wood or plastic and carving an object of it which would create lots of waste, the object is created by adding material, layer by layer - so there is little to no waste!

3D Printing has been around for many years, predominantly used for commerical prototyping. Costs of printers have been high so it has stayed away from home use.... until now! You can now buy a consumer unit for as little as £1000! Much like there is a computer in every home it is believed 3D Printers will follow suit over the next few years.

And so what, I already have a paper printer in my home, what's so special about 3D Printing? I'm glad you asked ;) 3D Printing has the potential to revolutionise the manufacturing industry and change the world - and much, much more...

There are many players already in this market, there's a bit of a gold rush about to take place, there are the giants like Stratasys, Objet and 3D Systems, the future stars of tomorrow like MakerBot, and then many smaller garage type set ups, many of which look like something out of Robot Wars :)

Expect huge leaps over the next few years, it's be a fierce market place as firms battle it out for market share.

There is also a large and ever growing hobbiest and open source network, all very exciting, can't wait to start printing ourselves... :)

More copy to follow shortly...



What is 3D Printing?

The BBC explain this well, check out their 7 minute YouTube video



What is 3D Printing?

Seemingly straight out of a 1970s Open University TV programme Christopher Barnett from gives a good explanation of 3D Printing



What is 3D Printing? - Potential Global Impact

David F. Flanders gives a good high level overview of the global impact potential of 3D Printing





Materials (that we have come across to date)

  • Alumide - brittle nylon plastic filled with aluminium dust
  • Biological -
  • Carbomorph -
  • Cement -
  • Ceramics -
  • Chocolate - mmmm, we need to make sure we research this properly :)
  • Concrete -
  • Continuous 3D Printing -
  • Glass -
  • Human Liver -
  • Human Skin -
  • Human Tissue -
  • Ice -
  • Meat - is this the way to create a healthy sustainable perfectly balanced diet? Could be, very interesting area this
  • Metal -
    • Gold
    • Steel & Stainless Steel
    • Sterling Silver
    • Titanium
  • Molecules -
  • Objet TangoPlus -
  • Pasta - if you work at Google you can eat this in the canteen ;)
  • Paper -
  • Plastic -
  • Resin -
  • Sandstone -
  • Silicon - used for among other things to create re-usable molds
  • Wood - kind of, we've come an FDM material called LAYWOO-D3 which is 40% recycled wood material and the remainder made up of polymer binders - the end resultis more like plywood than a upmarket hardwood


Uses for 3D Printing (both positive & negative!)

  • Art - fantastic and 'impossible' shapes are easily constructed
  • Circuit Boards -
  • Fashion - we've already seen a 3D printed bra, the floodgates are open...
  • Furniture -
  • Food Production - Meat, pasta, chocolate
  • Guns - yes, it's true, people are already trying this, a dangerous flip side to this technology but inevitable. Google Defense Distributed or Wiki Weapon if interested.
  • Jewellery - seem lots of this, some lovely designs however nothing wow yet
  • Knives - inevitable...
  • Lamp Shades - some superb examples out there, very well suited - however, thermoplastics with light bulbs...?
  • Manufacturing - everything, including space ships - NASA are using it!
  • Medical - already being used by dental companies
  • Movie Props - Iron Man costume & Skyfall miniture DB5
  • Prosthetic Limbs - these can be created for a perfect fit to an individual, rather than picking a small, medium or large (slight exageration on the latter)
  • Prototyping - this is origins of 3D Printing dating back more than a decade
  • Puzzles - maths applies so beatifully to 3D Printing, expect a resurge in amazingly intricate & complex puzzles
  • Robotics - hugely so, 3D Print will really speed up the evolution of robotics, the software is very advanced, the physical is the part that need to play catch up and 3D Print will facilitate this
  • Spare Parts - if you can download it, 3D model it or scan it, you can print it!
  • Toys - Disney are currently having a play with this


Global Impact (past, present & future)

  • Aerospace -
  • Art - 3D printing enables new shapes and structures to be build which were not possible with subtractive manufacturing, this is a space we are keen to join in on
  • Business -
  • Carbon Footprint - less need to trasport goods can only be a good thing for the environment
  • Cost Savings - cheaper to produce complex designs, less wasted materials
  • Defense -
  • Delivery, Shipping, Transportation - potentially huge impacts here, goods can be created locally so no need to ship half way around the world. We'd still have to ship the raw materials wouldn't we? Well yes, but likely less distance as the raw materials could be created more locally - and also the raw materials would be more compact and less fragile than finished items so easier to transport too.
  • Design & Variety -
  • Education -
  • Employment / Unemployment - 3D printing allows the production of working, mechanical objects (e.g. toy cars with rotating wheels, gear cubes, puzzle toys) without the need for assembly. This removes the need for a significant number of unskilled workers, these workers will have have to retrain or re-educate themselves else face unemployment. It is likely unemployment will rise as a result of the 3D print boom.
  • Engineering -
  • Fashion - new shapes and structures are now possible, designers can create things in their offices or homes, we expect to see some very quirky and hopefully clever fashion evolution.
  • Food -
  • Hobbiests - this is the roots of home 3D printing, these are the guys who are in effect leading the way or at least are on the forefront, there are many business and career opportunities for such pioneers of 3D printing.
  • Innovation - the doors are really opening... we would expect a huge rise in innovation as all those ideas flying around in people's brains but with no sensible outlet - suddenly find a sensible outlet! No need to produce a minimum order or 5000 from a factory in China and wait 3 months to arrive, now people can create whatever they want with a print run of 1 if they like! Customise and re-engineer as many times as they like, give it away for free to the whole world - the doors of innovation are about to be flung wide...
  • Intellectual Property -
  • Manufacturing -
  • Medical -
  • Military -
  • Lamp Shades - we've seen lots of designers using 3D printing to create wonderful new shapes and intricate designs, this one is here to stay.
  • Layers -
  • Legal System -
  • Pre-Assembled Products -
  • Prosthetics - been around for a while, this is a fantastic use of 3D Printing which makes a real difference to people's quality of life, custom fit personalised prosthetics - in any colour you like!
  • Simplicity -
  • Sizing - imagine a tool set with 10 different size wrenches - no need for 10 different molds to be make, 3D Printing enables you to print all sizes and any fraction in between from a single design.
  • Social - how can 3D printing change society? Do you not think the internet and mobile have changed the way we do business and interact with each other? 3D printing will shift some of the power further into the hands of the public, people will be able to create and sell their products, create their own fashion, their own jewellry, their own gadgets - it will enhance self expression and give consumer freedom with less restraints.
  • Tooling -
  • Transportation -



  • ABS Filament -
  • ABS Plastic -
  • Additive Manufacturing -
  • Bowden Extruder -
  • Bowyer-Watson Algorithm -
  • Build Tray -
  • Carbomorph -
  • Cold End -
  • Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Programming Language -
  • Deposition Head -
  • Digital Laser Metal Sintering (DLMS) -
  • Digital Light Projection 3D Printing (DLP) -
  • Direct Extruder -
  • DIYBio -
  • Electron Beam Melting (EBM) -
  • Extruder -
  • Extrusion Deposition -
  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) -
  • G-Code -
  • Geared Extruder -
  • Granular Materials Binding -
  • Haptic Device -
  • Hot End -
  • Hobby Printers -
  • Jet 3D Printing (PolyJet/ProJet) -
  • Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) -
  • Maker - someone who likes to make stuff, particularly relevant to the 3D Printing community
  • Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) - a printer that can 3D Print one molecule at a time!
  • PCABS -
  • Photopolymerization -
  • Physibles -
  • PLA Filament -
  • PolyJet/ProJet - see Jet Printing
  • Rapid Prototyping -
  • Raft -
  • Selective Heat Sintering (SHS) -
  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) -
  • Semi-Bowden Extruder -
  • SpiderBot -
  • Stereolithography -
  • Stereo Lithography Apparatus 3D Printing (SLA) -
  • STL Files -
  • Subtractive Technology -
  • Support Material -
  • Thermoplastic -
  • Two-Photon Lithography -
  • Voronoi Structures -






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