If you’ve been traveling the craft market circuit you may have seen 3D art popping up. If you’ve been to any video game conventions or shows or if you’ve been checking out craft style sites online you might have seen them too. But just what is 3D printing? Is it something just anyone can do? Is it something that you might want to be doing? We’ll take a look at some of the specifics and the things that you might want to know before you decide if you really want to get into 3D printing or leave it to someone else (and maybe pick up some of the cool pieces).


The Basics of 3D Printing


When we bring it down to the bare minimum, 3D printing is creating an object that has length, width, and depth from a type of printer. Okay, that’s probably slimming it down a little bit too much. When you 3D print something you’re using a special kind of printer that actually ‘prints’ with filaments. Those filaments are melted down and as they’re poured out they become a specific shape, one that you get to choose. That’s where they are ‘printed.’

Of course, before you end up with an actual project you need to decide what you want it to be. That’s where you’re going to need a file. You can purchase these from a number of different places. You can also choose to create your own file and customize a design that you want to create. This is going to take more time and more programming skills, but it’s absolutely possible and it can allow you to create more unique and one-of-a-kind pieces. That’s definitely a benefit on its own, right?


Why 3D Printing?


So, maybe now you’re wondering just why you would even care about 3D printing. Maybe you’re not quite sure what’s so special about it. Well, have you seen the way that those little pieces look? 3D printing is definitely pretty cool. That’s because you’re creating something, whatever you want, entirely out of melted materials. It’s like having your very own manufacturing plant in your own living room and that’s definitely going to be an amazing experience, don’t you think? And with a 3D printer, you’re not tied to just one item either. You can create anything you like.

You’ll be able to create figurines for your favorite collector. You can create toys for your children. You can create fun decorative pieces for your home. Basically, you can make anything you want. And yes, people have actually 3D printed cars (though not drivable ones). Keep in mind that whatever you do 3D print isn’t going to have a motor or electronic components unless you add them after the fact, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create something really awesome. Also, the size of the pieces that you create is going to be limited by the size of your printer, but you can always put multiple pieces together using glue to create something larger. (Or buy a larger printer.)


How does it work?


Okay, let’s dive a little further into how 3D printing actually works. You need to have some type of 3D modeling software in order to create whatever it is you want. You can’t just tell the machine ‘make a whistle’ and it will do it. Not unless you have a model for it to use. Otherwise, it doesn’t know what a whistle is or what it looks like. So, you find modeling software. Some are going to be expensive, but you can also find some that are just available out there online, so figure out what you’re most interested in.

The next step is called slicing and this is where you’re going to take the 3D model that you got from that software and put it onto your printer so that it can create something with it. If your printer has a slicer built into it then you can just load up the raw file that you’ve gotten from your software and it will prepare the file. If your printer doesn’t have this slicer you’re going to need to use another piece of software to do the slicing and then load that file onto your printer.

Now, it’s time to actually start the printing process. Luckily, your printer already knows what to do at this point so all you have to do is tell it to start and then sit back and watch it work. The process of slicing tells the printer exactly how to create the object that you want with thin layers of material, so it’s not going to look like a whole lot until you get away into it. You’re only going to see thin layers of filament that slowly start to stack up into something really cool (at least, as long as you chose to make something really cool).


The 3D Printing Industry


What once started out as only a hobby for many people has actually turned into a huge industry. People will pay a lot of money to get 3D printed items, and the more unique and decorative you can make them the more they’re willing to pay. The really neat thing is that 3D printers are starting to get better and better, and even the home ones are definitely starting to keep up with the more professional kind.

3D printing once started as merely a way for manufacturers to create a prototype of whatever they were going to produce with their real machines. Today, it’s something that everyone wants to do. Sure, many of those items that are being produced would still be considered prototypes, but they look cool so people like to have them anyway. It’s all about being able to create something entirely on your own because that’s exactly what you’re going to do with this type of product.


The industry for 3D printing has continued to evolve and actually it’s in the billions of dollars now. Between people wanting to purchase 3D printed items that someone else has made and buying 3D printers so that they can make their own items, there’s really a huge market for the product. After all, who wouldn’t love the idea of being able to make something just because they imagined it themselves? It seems like an awesome experience, right? Well, 3D printing is expected to continue to grow because of just that. And you can get in on it too. With the industry exploding it might actually surprise you to know that printers are available inexpensively enough that just about anyone can get in on it.


If you’re interested in learning even more about just what is 3D printing you should take a look at some of the amazing opportunities there are. You might be surprised just how cool some of the items are that you could be making. Not to mention you could be picking them up from others. Just check out how it all works and find out more about getting your own 3D printer. You might even be amazed at all the fun you can have when you’re trying it out for yourself. And you might even be able to make some money if you want to sell your items.