What is 3D Printing? Meaning, Working, and Application

3D printing machine
3D printing machine
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With applications in virtually every industry, 3D printing is a technology that uses the concept of additive manufacturing to produce objects or products. Given its immense popularity, many people today are curious about how this technology works. To help you understand it, we put up this 3D printing guide; to give you a comprehensive overview of what it entails.

What is 3D Printing?

In simple terms, 3D printing refers to the process of producing a three-dimensional object using a digital file. The object is created by successively adding layers of material until the desired shape is achieved. Here is a more detailed meaning of 3D printing:

3D Printing Definition

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a manufacturing procedure that involves creating a three-dimensional object by adding layers of material one upon the other.

Think of it as an object built from Lego blocks, only that instead of toy bricks, the 3D printing machine uses raw material (usually powder or filament) to create the object.

The term “additive” is used because, unlike other manufacturing methods that start with a block of material and remove layers to achieve the desired shape (subtractive method), 3D printing builds an object by successively adding layers.

3D printing technology has been around since the 1980s, but it only became widely available to consumers and businesses in the past few decades or so. Today, it has found applications in a range of industries, including healthcare, automotive, aerospace, and construction.

3D Printing vs. Traditional Manufacturing

The 3D printing process is considered an alternative to traditional industrial methods like subtractive manufacturing (which involves cutting, drilling, or milling materials) and injection molding (which uses a mold to create an object by injecting molten material into it).

3D printing has some advantages over traditional manufacturing methods. For instance, it is generally easier and less expensive to produce an object with a 3D printer than with traditional methods.

In addition, with 3D printing, manufacturing offers more design freedom since it is not constrained by the need for a mold or specific tooling. That means objects with more intricate designs or shapes can be easily created.

3D printing machine working
3D printing machine working
Resource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0EJmBoLq-g

How Does 3D Printing Work?

So how does 3D printing work? The key to understanding how 3d printing works is first to understand the difference between additive and subtractive manufacturing.

In subtractive manufacturing, objects are created by starting with a large block of material and then removing the excess material until the desired object is achieved. For instance, in CNC machining, a large metal block is milled or lathed into shape.

In additive manufacturing, on the other hand, objects are created by successively adding layers of material until the desired object is. 3D printing falls under this category. Generally, here is how 3D printing technology works.

  • The construction of a 3D printed object begins with creating a computer-aided design (CAD) file, which is then fed into a 3D printer.
  •  The 3D printing machine reads the CAD file and passes the data to an extruder, which melts or deposits the material (usually melted plastic or material powder and adhesive) onto the build platform layer by layer according to the design.
  •  Once the object is printed, it is cooled, and the build platform is removed, revealing the finished product. The final stage of the process involves finishing the object using various methods.
3D printing machine
3D printing machine
Resource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7TM9LBhUC8

Types of 3D Printing

As we have seen, 3D printing typically involves extruding melted material or depositing and fusing powder particles layer by layer. With only a few differences, there are several different 3D printing types or categories. The 3D printing methods are listed and explained below.

VAT Photopolymerization

VAT photopolymerization is a type of 3D printing that involves curing photosensitive resin with ultraviolet (UV) light. A vat filled with liquid photopolymer material is selectively exposed to UV light, solidifying the material in the desired shape.

Powder Bed Fusion

In powder bed fusion 3D printing, a layer of powder is first spread over a build platform. A laser beam then selectively fuses the powder particles, which adhere to each other until the desired three-dimensional shape is achieved.

Material Jetting

As its name suggests, material jetting 3D printing involves depositing droplets of material, layer by layer, until the desired three-dimensional shape is built up. The deposited material is then cured using ultraviolet light or heat.

Sheet Lamination

Sheet lamination 3D printing technology involves bonding layers of flat sheets together, usually using adhesive or ultrasonic welding until the desired three-dimensional shape is achieved. The material may be metal or polymer and sometimes also paper.

Material Extrusion

In extrusion-based 3D printing, a material is forced through a shaped nozzle to create the desired three-dimensional shape. The most common type of material extrusion 3D printing is fused deposition modeling (FDM). In this 3D printing technology, a filament is heated to a melt and extruded from a nozzle to print the object.

Binder Jetting

The binder jetting 3D printing process involves selectively depositing a binder material on powder particles through a jet nozzle. The binder material binds the powder particles together, layer by layer until the desired three-dimensional shape is built up.

Directed Energy Deposition

In directed energy deposition 3D printing, a focused beam of energy is used to melt and deposit material on a build platform or substrate. The deposited material then solidifies to form the desired part or product.

Common 3D Printing Materials

Some of the most common 3D printing materials include plastics (the most used), metals, ceramics, and even paper. In some applications, such as construction, concrete is also used.

In the food industry, 3D printing applications involve using edibles to print food. These can be anything from chocolates and candies to more complex shapes like pasta.

Materials for 3D printing are usually available in wire form, also called filament, powder, or resin. Most often, filaments are used in extrusion-based 3D printers.

3D printing for medical applications
3D printing for medical applications
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What are the Advantages of 3D Printing?

There are plenty of advantages that 3D printing offers. Here are some of the most notable ones.

Increased Design Freedom

As we have seen, one of the critical advantages of 3D printing is that it offers increased design freedom since it is not constrained by the need for a mold or specific tooling. That means objects with complex geometries can be easily printed.

Quick Turnaround Time

Another advantage of 3D printing is its relatively quick turnaround time. That’s because the objects can be printed directly from CAD files without any intermediate steps such as tooling or molding.

Reduced Wastage

3D printing also helps reduce wastage since objects can be printed only as needed and without waste. That’s in stark contrast to traditional manufacturing methods, where a large amount of material is wasted in the form of rejected products and leftover materials.

Versatile Applications

3D printing technology can be used for a broad range of applications across industries, from product development to actual manufacturing. That means you can effectively use 3D printing for creating end-use parts, functional prototypes, and concept models.


Another key advantage of 3D printing is that it is generally more cost-effective than most traditional manufacturing methods, especially when it comes to small-batch production.

In the same vein, there are also a few disadvantages of 3D printing that are worth mentioning. Some of the most notable ones include the limited range of materials that can be used for 3D printing and reduced accuracy. Nevertheless, more than these disadvantages is needed to outweigh the benefits offered by 3D printing.

Using a 3D printing machine
Using a 3D printing machine
Resource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gwbz-3uWZNw

3D Printing Examples

What can you make with a 3D printer? The possibilities are virtually endless. A lot depends on your imagination and the capabilities of the 3D printer. Here are 3D printing examples.

3D Printed Houses

Yes, you can now print houses with a 3D printer! There are already companies that are offering this service. The advantage of 3D-printed houses is that they cost less than traditional houses. They are also more environmentally friendly because less material is wasted during construction.

3D Printed Organs

3D printing is also being used to create organs and tissue for transplant. The technology is still in its early stages but has the potential to revolutionize the medical field. The first-ever 3D-printed organ, a human bladder, was successfully transplanted into a patient in 1999.

3D Printed food

Another interesting application of 3D printing is in the food industry. Using 3D printers, it is possible to print a wide range of food items such as pasta, chocolates, and more. 3D printing in the food industry is opening up new possibilities for food design and customization.

3D Printed Car Parts

The use of 3D printing in the automotive industry is also on the rise. Parts that are difficult to create using traditional manufacturing methods can now be easily printed with a 3D printer. They are also typically cheaper to produce. As a result, more and more car companies are adopting 3D printing technology.

3D Printed Aerospace Parts

In the aerospace industry, 3D printing is being used to create parts for satellites and spacecraft. The advantage of using 3D-printed parts is that they are much lighter than traditional parts. This is important for rockets and other aircraft that need to be as light as possible to function properly.

3D Printed Crafts

Hobbyists and artists use 3D printers to create all sorts of crafts. From 3D-printed jewelry to sculptures, there is no limit to what you can make with a 3D printer. If you can think of it, you can print it with a 3D printer.

3D Printed Consumer Products

Several companies are now using 3D printers to create a wide range of consumer products such as eyewear, electronics, and more. This comes with several benefits, such as reduced lead time and cost.

These are just a few examples of what can be made with a 3D printer. As technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see even more amazing.


3D printing is a technology that offers a wide range of benefits. It is eco-friendly, cost-effective, and can be used to create many different kinds of products. Despite its disadvantages, 3D printing has practically revolutionized the manufacturing industry.

If you’re just getting started with 3D printing, we hope this article has given you a better understanding of the technology and its applications.

Note that this is just a basic overview of 3D printing. If you want to learn more, check out our other articles on the topic.

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