3D printing is the process involved in making three-dimensional objects whereby computer control is used to lay down successive layers of materials (Stephens, Orch & Ramos 2013, p. 334). Also refered to as additive manufacturing, the term is an advancement of the original sense…
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3D technologies include building images layer by layer using powder and raw materials such as resins, plastics and super alloys rather than multi-coloured ink as in conventional printers (Berman 2012, p. 155). 3D printing presents many future possibilities, albeit some clearly not for the foreseeable future, including the manufacturing of final objects closer to consumers or even by the consumers themselves, with significant implications for both the society and economy. On the other hand, there are also issues ranging from social to practical, legal and economic aspects. This paper will evaluate the current uses of 3D printing and discuss its potential future based on the issues associated with them.
3D printing has evolved since the first functional 3D printer was created in 1984. The 3D printing or additive manufacturing process is a form of rapid-prototyping that fabricates three-dimensional objects using the technology of ink-jet printing. The process joins materials from three-dimensional model data to make or ‘print’ objects, usually placing layer upon layer unlike subtractive manufacturing that include cutting and moulding raw materials into objects (Stahl 2013, p. 3). Further, it mainly uses systems of 3D scanning and computer-aided design (CAD) models for production. Objects printed using the 3D technology are fabricated after successive layers of materials are solidified, fused or deposited on top of each other, whereby each layer corresponds to the objects’ cross-sectional shapes. FDM (fused deposition modeling) and SLS (selective laser sintering) are currently the most common 3D printing technologies. Technological developments have made the concept more accessible and affordable, widening the range of current and potential users beyond the previous rapid prototyping systems that fundamentally targeted engineering and industrial applications. According to Stephens, Orch & Ramos (2013, p. 334), 3D printing may better be understood by viewing what
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