What is 3D Printing?

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Updated February 3, 2023

If you are new to the world of physical printing, you may wonder what is 3D printing. 3D printers are some of the best printers on the market, after all. These machines use heated plastic filament, powders, or resin to create 3D objects of various types. So what exactly is 3D printing, and what are some advantages to adopting the hobby? Keep reading to find out.


  • 3D printing refers to additive manufacturing which is the process by which printers create three-dimensional objects by using layers of material and printing layer by layer.
  • The primary function of 3D printing technologies used to be rapid prototyping by companies in the design and industrial sectors.
  • Nowadays, however, these printers are used by regular consumers to build toys, gadgets, and tools via digital files, 3D printing materials, and the 3D printing process.

What is 3D Printing Exactly?

There are many types of printers out there, but the average consumer-grade 3D printer works by heating up resin or filament and extruding the material through a nozzle or two. These nozzles move around the 3D plane as directed by design schematics, building 3D models and 3D objects layer by layer upon a print bed.

Insider Tip

3D printers come in a wide range of sizes, designs, and price points, from a couple of hundred bucks to $10,000 or more.

If you want to learn about 4D printing, it is helpful to understand 3D printing. If you are wondering what 3D printers are used for, they find many uses, from making toys and action figures to creating tools and storage cases. A 3D printer uses a design schematic to develop 3D models if you are just learning what resolution is in 3D printing.

Uses for 3D Printers

There are many uses for this type of printer to suit residential consumers and various manufacturing industries.

Making Quick Prototypes

If you work in an office that creates physical objects, from toys to components of larger items, you likely have used a 3D printer for rapid prototyping. This is the primary use case scenario for printers found in various industries. However, this is also quite useful for residential customers. Prototyping allows you to quickly try out new designs to see if they work for each intended use. This holds especially true if you are selling 3D-printed objects online.

Creating Doodads

What exactly is a doodad? Well, it’s anything you can think of that is small enough to fit inside of the print bed and simple enough to be built in one pass-through. This includes a murderer’s row of useful household objects like can openers, wrenches, and more. It also includes smartphone cases, laptop cases, and so much more.

STAT: 3D printing is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing which is cutting out / hollowing out a piece of metal or plastic with, for instance, a milling machine. (source)

Designing Original Toys

If you are creative and want to try your hand at making original and unique toys and action figures, a 3D printer is in your future. Many consumers use these printers to build all sorts of nifty toys and related items.

3D Printing Defined FAQs

When was 3D printing invented?

3D systems of printing were invented in the 1980s, though back then, it was simply known as additive manufacturing or computer-aided design.

What software should you use for 3D printing?

There are many 3D systems and software suites available that specialize in additive manufacturing processes. Try out different ones to choose the best fit for your 3D systems.

What are the benefits of 3D printing?

The benefits of selective laser sintering and any 3D printing process, including subtractive manufacturing and direct metal laser sintering, are myriad. You can use them to make 3D objects via 3D printing materials.
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