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A 3D model of a double helix DNA from Thingiverse.com posted by user Hello18

Image of a slicer program used by a 3D printer.

3D printing is a process of manufacturing a physical three-dimensional model based on a 3D design created using computer-aided design (CAD) or computer graphics software. Many pre-made 3D models are available on the internet for sale or shared for free under creative commons licenses.

The process of printing physical models can be done in a variety of ways[1] but most DIY hobbyist 3D printers will utilize either stereolithography (SLA)[2] or fused deposition modeling (FDM)[3].

There are many proprietary and open source file formats for 3D printing.[4] Currently the most common formats for hobbyists are .stl or .obj. These file formats contain data such as object dimensions and surface texture.

Before printing a physical model the file containing the digital model is imported into a software program known as a "slicer". The slicer "slices" the model into layers and converts the layers into lines of code that are used to automate the 3D printer's actions as the 3D printer prints the physical model layer by layer. Other data the slicer software shares in the output for the 3D printer includes properties such as type of material being used for layering, print speed, print temperature, ect.

Some believe that 3D printers are an early prototype of the replicator seen in Star Trek. A YouTube video by Isaac Arthur[5] points out some of the limitations that would be encountered trying to 3D print at very small scales.

See also[]

Industrial Additive Manufacturing 4D printer

References[]

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