3D printing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using additive processes, where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material. 3D printing is considered distinct from traditional machining techniques (subtractive processes) which mostly rely on the removal of material by drilling, cutting etc.
The technology is not new. They’ve been used to make manufacturing and engineering prototypes for more than 25 years. But printer makers are now turning their attention to the consumer market, and have been rewarded with soaring sales and stock prices — as well as the prospect of lucrative buyouts.
Some printers capable of churning out simple items such as keychains, wine bottle holders and missing board game pieces are already selling for as little as $350. That’s cheaper than a high-end version of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 with Kinect.
Copyright holders will cringe, but people are already using printers to make Star Wars battle cruisers or a cheaper alternative to Lego or Mattel Inc toys.
Currently, though, the process is slow — about 45 minutes to make something the size of an egg, and about four hours to create an item the size of a soft drink can.