As the name implies, a 3D printer allows users to print an object as 3-Dimensional CAD (Computer Aided Design) images. It is an innovative technology that helps businesses cut costs and develop new methods of production. Though 3D printers have been in use for more than 25 years now, they have been gaining prominence only recently. According to a survey, the 3D printer market in India will exceed Rs. 500 cr by 2022. Simplicity of use and almost unlimited customization possibilities has resulted in 3D printers becoming more and more popular as design tools. Initially, 3D printers were used as a rapid prototyping solution to make one or two quick physical samples giving the designers a chance to correct the flaws and modify the product. Prototyping still is the major usage of 3D printers but the developments in technology have made it possible to use this 3D printing beyond research and development stages and incorporate it into the manufacturing stage.
3D Printers use a laser or extruder (the material output part of the printer), that move along an X, Y and Z axis to build an object in three dimensions, wherein successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes. These layers can be only a few microns thick at a time. This is an advantage over traditional method which uses subtractive method where materials are cut or drilled from mould. Using the additive process, layers of materials in liquid, solid or material form are fused together. 3D printers thus use additive manufacturing or direct digital manufacturing technology to produce proto type of a product. 3D printers use Computer Aided Designing (CAD) softwares to create a digital blue print first. The object is then built layer by layer. Using this new technology, a manufacturer can develop a working prototype in just a few hours compared to traditional prototyping. Ultimately, this results in saving time and cost. Especially since the additive manufacturing process also minimizes waste.