3D printing, also referred to as additive manufacturing, is the process that allows computer generated 3D models to be created into physical objects. The technique was initially developed in the 90s to produce inexpensive prototype parts for industrial design work. However, as costs fall this technology is slowly finding its way into more and more industries.
Working in three-dimensional is tremendous fun but is also challenging and can be a tad bit complex and allows for just about unlimited creative expression. Most recently, you could only view the objects on the screen and lacked the luxury of been able to touch and feel them. However, the coming in of additive manufacturing allows one to be able to get that element of physical tangibility.
There are only a handful of methods available as of now but the basic procedure involves building layer upon layer of raw material until one gets the final model. Raw materials used are anything from ceramic powder, metal or even synthetic resin. The printer takes the images generated by the computer as a guide to create these microscopic layers.
Applications of this technology have expanded from the original purpose of creating prototype models for the automobile industry to creating parts that are used to test the strength and functionality of various parts. Some manufacturing plants use this technology to create objects though on a small-scale basis. The retail and entertainment industry is one of them that have taken to the technology to produce figurines and toys.
Yes, it is possible for one to have their own models created by one of online vendors who provide the service on-demand. In addition, unlike injection molding, the cost per unit remains constant no matter the number of items to be printed. The vendors in most cases do not require a minimum number in order to start processing your order.
These costs are determined mainly by the physical size of the model and the material one wish to use. The cost can however be reduced by making use of quality CAD software to create complete objects. One can further reduce costs by having hollow models created which are significantly cheaper than the solid type.
If you are considering applying three-dimensional printing in your home, then go ahead it will be loads of fun if you can create character models of people you know using 3D printing software. You can significantly reduce the costs by getting one of the few home kits but you will get better results by using an online vendor. Quality consumer print equipment is a reality in the near future.