What is 3D Printing?

What is 3D Printing?

The introduction of new state-of-art Additive manufacturing techniques like 3D printing, Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM), etc have revolutionized the field of manufacturing in an unbeatable manner.

Need for Additive Manufacturing

  • To built a scaled model/ prototype of an object rapidly.
  • To meet the highly customized demand of customers quickly and effectively.
Before discussing these advanced developments in manufacturing,  let’s have a look at manufacturing.

What is Manufacturing???

Manufacturing in its simplest way may be defined as
      “Conversion of the raw materials into the semi-finish or finish product with the help of different types of processes like physical, chemical, biochemical, etc.”
Note:- The word manufacturing is derived from two Latin words manu (Hand) & factus (made by). Thus the literal meaning of manufacturing is Made by Hand. This meaning is completely irrelevant in today’s age of machine but still being used and sometimes interchangeably with Production.

Classification of manufacturing

For a clear understanding of manufacturing processes, one should go through the proper classification of manufacturing.
All the manufacturing processes may be classified on different basics.
The most suitable classification of the manufacturing processes that also support the current topic would be based on material addition or removal.
 Accordingly, All the manufacturing processes may be classified under three head:-
  • Positive/Additive manufacturing
  • Null/Zero Manufacturing
  • Negative Manufacturing

Positive/ Additive Manufacturing

All those manufacturing processes in which material is added to the raw material to get the desired shape and size.
Examples:- All welding processes in which filler material is used, 3D printing, etc.

Subtractive/negative manufacturing

All those manufacturing processes in which material is removed from the raw material to get the desired shape and size.
Examples:- All the machining processes like Turing, milling, drilling, etc.

Null/ zero Manufacturing

All those manufacturing processes in which material is neither added nor subtracted from the raw material to get the desired shape and size.
Examples:- Forming processes, Forging Processes, Rolling Processes, etc.

Additive manufacturing

From the above classification, it is cleared that Additive manufacturing is not the latest term being used in manufacturing. This term became more famous after the development of the latest technology, especially 3D printing.
3D Printing may be defined as “the manufacturing process in which deposition of material takes place layer by layer to get a 3D object.”
Note:- Additive Manufacturing v/s Rapid Prototyping
Some time Additive Manufacturing (AM) and Rapid Prototyping (RP) are used interchangeably.
To be more precise, Rapid Prototyping means to develop a 3D scaled model/ prototype of a product in minimum time with the help of some advanced manufacturing processes like 3D Printing, CNC machining, etc.
It means additive manufacturing only comes under Rapid Prototyping along with other processes but as RP makes maximized use of AM, they both are used interchangeably.

3D Printing Procedural Steps

3D printing makes use of these following steps to build a product.
Step 1:-
To develop a 3D design of a give product/ part by using any
  • Computer-aided design (CAD) software
  • 3D scanner
Step 2:-
To covert the 3D design of the product/ part into a .stl file.
What is a .stl file?
 A .stl file slice the 3D design into a finite number of layers.
Step 3:-
Feeding of 3D design data in the form of .stl file into the 3D printer along with other required information.
Step 4:-
 The 3D printer runs and builds the product /part.

Techniques used in 3D Printing

Several different techniques are being used in a 3D printer.
Some of them are as follow:-
  • Fused Deposition method (FDM)
  • Stereolithography(SLA)
  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
  • Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
  • Electronic Beam Melting (EBM)
  • Material Jetting (MJ)
  • Binder Jetting (BJ) and many more.

To further know about these techniques Click here


The advanced  additive manufacturing techniques like 3D printing offers the following advantages over conventional manufacturing
  • Complex geometries objects can be built-in minimum time and with little waste of raw materials.
  • An object with several moving parts can be fabricated in a single run.
  • Cost reduction
  • Rapid response to the customer demands which further leads to the customization of the product.
  • Offered great strength and durability as every object( single or assembled)  built as a single object in one run only.


3D printing was first associated with the Rapid Prototyping only. But as of now, 3D printing is widely used to build an object/ product directly in almost every of lifelike
  • Medical sector
  • Automobile sector
  • Construction sector
  • Customized manufacturing, etc.

Future scope

As the need for customized products is being increased, the manufacturers are considering the use of a 3D Printer for commercial purposes directly.
This is all about the 3D Printing.
Hope you find it useful.

Happy learning

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