Chapter 1

3-D Printing and Careers What is 3-D Printing?

Perhaps you’re already a 3-D expert—printing dinosaurs, acoustic guitars, smartphone cases, or a medical model for your science class. But 3-D printing has become popular and affordable for hobbyists only in recent years, so there are many people who have yet to try this fun and groundbreaking technology. What is 3-D printing, and how does it differ from traditional manufacturing? First, it’s important to know that 3-D printing is a type of additive manufacturing, although some people use the terms interchangeably. Three-dimensional (3-D) printing is a manufacturing process that involves adding layers and layers of building material (e.g., rubber, plastic, metal, glass, ceramic, concrete, thermoplastic composites infused with carbon fibers and nanotubes, and even biomaterials) in precise geometric shapes until the 3-D object is complete. In 3-D printing, a digital file is created by developing a mathematical representation of the 3-D surface of an object via computer aided design software. A designer or hobbyist may also create a completely new product. The file is then printed using a 3-D printer. This printer is similar to a desktop printer, but instead of printing a piece of paper with text and images on it, it prints a 3-D object.

Introduction: 3-D Printing and Careers


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