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Video:What Is 3D Printing?

with Michael Curry

Imagine turning your creations into physical reality? In this About.com video, learn about the history of 3D printing, why it's important, and how it ultimately will become the future of printing.See Transcript

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Transcript:What Is 3D Printing?

Hello, my name is Michael Curry. I'm the 3D printing evangelist at MakerBot Industries.

What is a 3D Printer?

The easiest way to think of a 3D printer, is a as a small desktop factory. Essentially, it's a machine that will take something you've created or downloaded in your computer and print it out as a real physical version.

Why is 3D Printing Important?

Well, a lot of people point to it and see the next step in the industrial revolution. Imagine the ability to not necessarily go to the store and buy something, but the ability to create your own. To actually customize something to your own needs and desires and then print it out in your own home.

The History of 3D Printing

3D printers have been around for a while, since the early 1970s. Most 3D printers have been used in prototyping or in the engineering world or in the design worlds. So for so long, what would happen is you wanted to make a prototype aircraft part: You would design it, then at great expense you would print it out using a very, very expensive machine.

More modern uses of the technology, especially now that we've gotten to desktop 3D printing, is things like product design; things like architecture; even down to hobbyists, people who want to make little pieces of doll house furniture; people who want to make products they want to put on Kickstarter; people who really want to explore an idea before they take it out into the world and start to show it to others.

What Materials do 3D Printers Use?

In desktop 3D printing at this time there's really two materials that are available. They're PLA plastic and ABS plastic. ABS plastic is a very, very standard engineering plastic. You'll see it all around you in the world. Think kitchen appliances, children's toys and things like Lego's. Lego's are the quintessential example of ABS plastic. PLA plastic is a cornstarch-based plastic. It's actually a bio plastic, which means it can be biodegraded under the correct conditions. It's nice because it's a renewable resource, and, when used in a machine, it lets you get higher resolution prints.

To learn more about 3D printing, visit About.com.


 

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