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The New World of 3D Printing
- Read in 12 minutes
- Audio & text available
- Contains 7 key ideas
Fabricated (2013) offers a detailed view of the nuts and bolts of additive manufacturing – or, as it is more commonly known, 3D printing. In addition to exploring some of the technology’s more far-out possibilities, these blinks also provide insight into its more personal implications.
Key idea 1 of 7
By means of a computer and a design file, a 3D printer can create any kind of object, one layer at a time.
Even if you’re not very computer literate, you probably know how to use an everyday inkjet printer. You click “print” and the machine spits out a piece of paper with some words or maybe a photograph printed on it.
A 3D printer is a whole other story.
Rather than imprinting a two-dimensional piece of paper with ink, a 3D printer is designed to build objects, varying in size and shape, out of a wide array of materials.
Like a standard printer, a 3D printer can’t do anything without a computer to tell it what to print.
The computer is needed to send the 3D printer information from a design file, which is basically an electronic blueprint for what you want to build.
So if you want to print a copy of your favorite seventeenth-century brass vase, for instance, you have to first get the right design file. With that, the computer can tell the printer to fabricate a replica that is an exact match in each and every way.
The printer does this by painstakingly building a three-dimensional object, one layer at a time.
For your brass vase, it would start with the bottom, creating a thin, flat layer of brass that represents the base. Once that solidifies, another layer is added to the top of the first one. And this process continues – a new layer being added after the solidification of the last one – until the entire vase is finished. By changing the dimensions of each layer, an object of any shape can be created.
Using this process, anyone can fabricate any object, as long as the details are contained in the design file.
In the blinks that follow, we’ll explore the major impact 3D printing will have on our lives, the economy and the environment. But first, we’ll take a closer look at the software that makes it all possible.