3D printing is a physical object formation process that’s based in the creation of three-dimensional models used as virtual blueprints. By consecutively laying down a series of thin material layers, the full physical realization of the virtual blueprint can be brought into being with fairly accurate attention to detail.
The 3D printing process can be formally referred to as the process of “additive manufacturing.” While its origins can be cited as traceable back to the mid-80s, its use for recreational and practical purposes worldwide has proliferated widely in recent years.
As the use of 3D printers for object creation grew more popular and respected, technology giants like Microsoft took notice and began modifying their existing hardware lines to be compatible with 3D scanning functionality.
The 3D Design Printing Process
Every one of the small layers laid down by the 3D printer in the creation process is a cross-section of the desired object’s 3D model. The specific file holding the 3D model of the intended object is referred to as a Computer Aided Design (CAD) file, created with the combined use of various 3D modeling software solutions and a specially designed 3D scanner.
Depending on the specifications of the printer in question, a 3D printer may create the intended object through any manner of distinct technological methods. Some of the various methods used to facilitate the 3D printing process include modulated light administration, volumetric scanning, time-of-flight, and various other methods. To watch the process yourself, check out this amusing video of senior citizens experiencing a 3D printer for the first time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4blAdS6r3Q
Hardware And Software Availability
Depending on the extent of a 3D scanner and printer’s technological processing power, they can be found in a wide variety of different price ranges and potential limits for complex object creation. The higher-end range of 3D printers can see models that cost well into the upper thousands of dollars in pricing, while slightly dressed-down 3D printers may be had for a much more economical price if intended for strictly academic purposes.
While the higher levels of hardware and software for 3D modeling projects are certainly far from cheap, there are a number of freely available 3D modeling programs such as Blender. With programs like Blender, even those who don’t have any professional expertise in 3D modeling can learn the fundamentals and become at least passably versed enough in the technology to develop small personal projects.
As the concept of 3D modeling and printing has garnered more media attention and funding, the availability of consumer-grade 3D printers and software applications has grown as well. Currently, it’s possible for a hobbyist to personally construct their own customized 3D printer with a simple DIY kit at a total net cost of no more than a few dozen dollars.
The Future Of 3D Printer Utilization
Far from simply being an unconventional practice in artistic object sculpting, 3D printing’s potential to serve a vital purpose for the betterment of healthcare has draw a great degree of attention. The use application of 3D scanning to replicate the physical form of vital organs has been a project growing in both backing and efficiency for some time now, and with further sharpening of the process, it’s anticipated that patients in need of organ transplants may very well be able to benefit from what 3D scanners are capable of accomplishing.
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