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3D Printing 101

The Ultimate 3D Printing Guide (101 Questions Answered)

Picture ofFranklin Houser
by Franklin Houser
Published Nov 8, 2016

Interested in 3D printing? Read the most comprehensive guide to 3D printing answering 101 essential questions about 3D printing.

This 3D printing guide is split into 101 questions. To help you find the right answer, please enter your search keyword in the table below. Or click on any topic that interests you.

The Ultimate 3D Printing Guide

3D Printing Guide: Basics

What is 3D printing? How does it work? What is it good for? What are the benefits? … and much more.

1. What is 3D printing?

3D printing is the automated process of building a three-dimensional object by adding material rather than taking material away (as in drilling or machining). The process, also known as additive manufacturing, was first introduced in the late 1980s. It was first commercially used as a rapid prototyping method in the aerospace and automotive industries. Charles Hull, who later co-founded 3D Systems, had a patent issued for a stereolithography system (or SLA for short).

In 1988, 3D Systems sold its first industrial 3D printer utilizing the SLA technology.

In the early 1990s, many industrial 3D printing companies were founded, they all came up with newly invented processes. Only three of the major 3D printing companies from that time when 3D printing’s only application was industrial, are still on the market. The most important ones are 3D Systems, EOS, and Stratasys.

It wasn’t until 2009 that 3D printing became commercially available to the masses. The RepRap open source project opened the door to affordable desktop 3D printers utilizing the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology. Then, and in the years following 2009, new and other companies started innovating, creating and improving the consumer/desktop 3D printer to the point where today, we have high-quality, affordable and also expensive desktop 3D printers utilizing the FDM technology (and others).

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