3D printing is based on methods of applying a 2D image on a 3D surface, a system for generating three-dimensional objects by creating a cross-sectional pattern of the object to be formed. 3D scanning is the process of analyzing and collecting data of real object; its shape and appearance and builds digital, three dimensional models.
3D Printing employs additive layer processes, where successive layers of materials are laid down in different shapes. Some companies offer on-line 3D printing services open to both consumers and industries. Such services require people to upload their 3D designs to the company website. Designs are then 3D printed using industrial 3D printers and either shipped to the customer or in some cases; the consumer can pick the object up at the store.
3D printing works under computer control and is a limited type of industrial robotics that is capable of carrying out an additive process. The 3D printer can print with anything that can be dispensed from a syringe as liquid or paste.
The 3D printing technology is used for both prototyping and distributed manufacturing with applications in architecture, construction, industrial design, automotive, aerospace, military engineering, civil engineering, dental and medical industries, biotech (human tissue replacement), fashion, footwear, jewellery, eyewear, education, geographic information systems, food, and many other fields. Even the first working blueprint to produce a plastic gun with a 3D printer was available on a website in May 2013 (removed later on from the site)!
China has committed around $500 million towards the establishment of national 3-D printing development institutes. In 2013, Chinese scientists began printing ears, livers and kidneys, with living tissue instead of plastic successfully using specialized 3D bio print.
[Credit – G. Kesavan Nair (Thiruvananthapuram)]