We’ve all heard it, “3D printing is the future” – the new industrial revolution. It’s going to (and has already started to) completely change the way we create, customize, and design products. You can 3D print anything from prototypes to replacement parts to prosthetics and even houses and cars. But, what exactly is this amazing new technology that everyone is talking about? Here’s an introduction to 3D printing to help you get started. For a more in depth intro, check out our answer to the common question; What is 3D printing?
How Do 3D Printers Print?
- Design Stage: It all starts on the computer. A 3D designer has to use 3D design software like Computer Aided Design (CAD) software to generate files that instruct the 3D printer on how to print an object. These files have to be adapted to each type of 3D printer and have design dimensions altered to fit every type of material that the item will be printed it. For example, a 3D printed mug (like the one pictured below) has to have different wall thickness if it is printed in white plastic versus ceramic. Similarly, different types of 3D printers print items in different ways, which must be accounted for in designs.
- Printing Stage: Once the design file is successfully created, it can be sent to a 3D printer to be printed. Most desktop 3D printers print the design through layering. The printer melts material (being fed into it on a type of spool) and instantaneously cooling it layer by layer until the full design is created. That’s why, often when you look very closely at a 3D printed item, you can see tiny lines going through the body of the item.
There are several different 3D printers on the market, each with its own specific means of printing, and the options are always expanding to create a less expensive and higher quality printed product.
Who Is Involved In 3D Printing?
There are 3 major categories of people involved in the 3D printing world: 1. Designer, 2. Makers, 3. Consumers.
The Designers are the people who actually create the 3D design files that allow 3D printers to print cool stuff. This is a pretty technical and creative job, and usually calls for either a 3D design, 3D animation or engineering background and familiarity with 3D design tools like ZBrush, Solidworks, 3DS Max, and Blender.
The Makers are the hobbyists out there. They own their own 3D printers and want to use them! They can be designers, but often times they are also looking for cool files designed by others to print at home.
Consumers are all of those people out there who think that 3D printed items are super cool but don’t design or print them themselves. These people would typically buy the already printed products from a 3D print service.
What Can 3D Printing Do For Me?
3D printing offers customizability that no other form of production (other than hand making) can offer. Every time you order something off of our site, you know that design was printed specially for you. On the same note, if you see a design that you really like, but want it to be changed to fit your needs, then you can commission a designer specifically to do that and order it in printed form.
For people who have their own 3D printer, they get the satisfaction of being able to print items in their home and have that particular design file ready for later prints. Need a new part for your bike? Find the perfect one for your bike, download the design file, then have that exact file ready the next time you need it, without ever having to run to the repair shop.
What Role Does Pinshape Play?
There’s nothing better than finding an amazing design to have printed and shipped to you, or better yet, downloading the files and printing it yourself! On the other hand, it’s no fun trying to print something that won’t work. Pinshape solves this.
We are a community marketplace for 3D printing. We designers to list their work on our site to sell or just share, and consumers to find those great 3D prints. From there, if customers have their own printer they can download the files to print at home!
We focus on fostering quality and community, which means that we want to help designers get their printable amazing designs out to the world and help people access those usable designs.
Start shopping, sharing, and uploading here.