3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the entire object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.
It all starts with making a virtual design of the object you want to create. This virtual design is made in a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file using a 3D modeling program (for the creation of a totally new object) or with the use of a 3D scanner (to copy an existing object). A 3D scanner makes a 3D digital copy of an object.
3-D printing is making it easier and faster to produce complex objects with multiple moving parts and intricate design, and soon it will be affordable enough to have at home. Additive manufacturing (AM) is the family of manufacturing technology that includes 3-D printing. AM is the means of creating an object by adding material to the object layer by layer. AM is the current terminology established by ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials) [source: Gibson, et al.]. Throughout its history, additive manufacturing in general has gone by various names: stereolithography, 3-D layering and 3-D printing. This article uses 3-D printing because it seems to be the most common term used to describe AM products.
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