• 3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.
• 3D printing encompasses a wide range of additive manufacturing technologies. Each of these builds objects in successive layers that are typically about 0.1 mm thin.
• The methods used vary significantly, but all start with a computer aided design (CAD) model or a digital scan.
• This is then processed by ‘slicing software’ that divides the object into thin cross sections that are printed out one on top of the other.
• 3D printed models of human organs have been a frequent tool for surgeons over the last two to three years, as they provide a more intricate view of the issues at hand. Instead of relying on 2D and 3D images on a computer screen or a printout, surgeons can actually touch and feel physical replicas of the patient’s organs, bone structures, or whatever else they are about to work on.
• Because of the unique geometries offered by additive manufacturing, militaries around the world, as well as agencies such as NASA and the ESA, along with numerous aircraft manufacturers are turning to 3D printing in order to reduce the overall weight of their aircraft. Complex geometries and new materials offer superior strength with less mass, potentially saving organizations like NASA boatloads of fuel, and thus money, during the launching of spacecraft and/or rockets out of our atmosphere. At the same time, companies like Boeing and Airbus are using 3D printing to reduce the weight of their aircraft, allowing them to cut fuel costs for each flight.