What is 3D printing?

The amazing prospects of 3D technology were underscored by the development of an aircraft engine by Australian engineers using 3D printing. It was a joint venture of Monash University and Amaero Engineering. A result of research spanning two years, the engine is economical and more effective than the prevalent engines. It was made using dusted nickel, titanium and aluminum, melting and welding them with laser rays. The engine is also very light and easy to handle.
The process of printing a three dimensional picture of a material using a printer is called 3D printing. It is also called additive manufacturing since the processing materials are combined using the help of computers.
The first step in 3D printing is designing the model to be printed with a computer. These Computer Aided Designs (CAD) are developed as three dimensional objects with the printer. The working of 3D printer is pretty much like an ordinary inkjet printer. Instead of ink, here the materials for printing are set up in multiple layers. Then it is printed according to the digital blueprint that has been developed earlier.
The history of 3D printing began in 1984. The man behind the idea was Chuck Hull, the co-founder of US based printing company 3D Systems Corporation. He developed the technology of creating 3D pictures from digital data and acquired a patent in 1986. He named the new technology Stereo Lithography. The technology gradually earned popularity worldwide and spawned various imitations. Techniques such as Fused Deposition Modelling, Selective Laser Printing and Multijet Modelling were developed.
In 1993, the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a new technology for which they acquired patent in name Three Dimensional Printing. After that, this area witnessed a revolutionary progress. Technology behemoths like Stratasys, 3D Systems and Z Corporation marketed their printer models Genisys, Actua 2100 and Z402 respectively. Z510, made in 2005, was the world’s first high definition (HD) color 3D printer.
The greatest advantage of 3D printing is the saving of time and money. Since the 3D pictures are developed from 2D models, the manufacturers can see and analyze the products before the production and solve any defects.
The help of 3D technology is used in areas including manufacturing, art, health, education and automobiles. Artificial kidneys, gun, automobile parts and ornaments have all been produced with the help of 3D printing. It possibilities are increasing day by day.
Additional reading:
3D printing (Wikipedia)

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