What is 3D Printing?

What is 3D printing? At first glance you could just say “Oh, you just print something out from the computer”. It is of course much more complex. We see the stories quite a bit in the news heralding new innovations like being able to print a kidney in the not so distant future. How it’s actually accomplished takes a little more depth than what the average news story has time for (and probably more than what the average reporter comprehends).

XYZ Coordinates

XYZ Coordinates

Generally it starts with an object be created on a computer in a CAD (computer aided design) program. Remember Cartesian coordinates from grade school? Basically you have a graph that starts at zero and expands out into 2 directions (X & Y) at 90º angles. Anywhere on that chart if you make a point, it will have an address. Say you start from the zero and move to the right until you are directly under the dot. That is 9 on the X axis. Then you go up until you reach it and that is 4 on the Y axis. The point in space you have selected is 9,4. If you draw a square, that could be represented as a series of numbers on this chart. Now, imagine a 3rd axis at 90º to the first two. This will represent the 3rd dimension. Any point within a 3D box can be described mathematically.

If you tell a machine to dispense out a small amount of liquid polymer or plastic (that quickly hardens) at each point on these axes, you can begin to see how a object can be made from a mathematic representation.


This is, of course, a simplification of the process. It takes complex programing to convert 3D models that you have created in software and make these reproducible. 3D models generally have no thickness, may be only 1 sided and may not be ‘airtight’. These things have to be worked around as 3D software originated long before the printers were created. The markets are converging and exciting products are being made, many not even conceivable 5 years ago.


We are familiar with the many pitfalls and stumbling points of generating these models and can help you make your product a reality.

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