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3D printing is type of additive manufacturing. The technology allows artists to print out 3D models of their designs using a computer. It does this by taking a 3D computer generated image and manufacturing it into a physical figurine.
Due to falling prices, it is now becoming available for the everyday artist and 3D designer. The technology gives artists much freedom when designing 3D art. They have the power to create virtually any shape out of nearly any material. This method of manufacturing is also much more dynamic than other methods like traditional molding or CNC cutting. When artists print 3D models, they don't have to worry about certain aspects, for example: through 3D printing, artists can print 3D models that are similar to rubics cubes, certain puzzle like products, mechanical functioning products, and other significant products such as a ball within a ball. These kinds of products are difficult or impossible in traditional mold manufacturing, as well as CNC cutting.
3D printing in practice
First, you need to have a 3D model of whatever object you want to print. You can make this model yourself preferably using Google SketchUp (as this program is most suited for making models for 3D printing). Note that you can however also use another program like Blender3D, Sculptris, 2Brush, 123DSculpt, ... or a 3D modelling program specifically made for 3D printing -such as 123DStudio, TinkerCAD, 3DTin, ...). which you can attain from a website like
convert your 3D file (ie sketchup, collada, ... file) to an .stl or .obj file.
Once this is done, the computer can sent CG images to a 3D printer using this STL file. The printer will then create the image layer by layer out of various materials. For example, the printer might create an ABS plastic model by producing it layer by layer and fusing the layers together. Through 3D printers, artists can print 3D models of their creations.
There are quite a few materials out there right now that can be used when trying to print 3D models. There are companies out there offering a wide variety to choose from. Some places offer 5-10 materials. Some offer over 50! These materials could be ceramics, plastics, liquid resin, rubber like materials, metals, materials with mechanical properties, or even precious metals. Artists can print 3D models out of gold, silver, and platinum (though obviously at a high cost).
Benefits of 3D printing
How do artists benefit when they print 3D models? Imagine an artist spending hours and hours on a project. This model was his or her vision, and they created it. All the time and effort was thrown in this model... for what? Well, artists can see their models on their computers, but that seems kind of bland in my opinion. Imagine that artist being able to hold his or her model, in their own hands. Imagine how inspiring it would be to know that you created something - you brought it to life. What else comes for artists who print 3D models? Imagine interviewing for a game company. You would be just another interviewee with good designs. Unless you printed your models! How cool would it be for your interviewer to hold your work? Perhaps an artist was an engineer for a drilling company. Imagine that artist being able to bring in physical scaled models of your drills, pipe, and other parts. For an interviewer to be able to see your models in person - that could be powerful. Very powerful. When an artist would print 3D models, he or she could greatly prove his or her chances of landing a job!
- Open source 3-D printers
- Open source 3-D printing of OSAT
- Open source sustainability 3-D printing design competition
- Most suited since flaws can be created when converting the made 3D model to an .stl file with programs like Blender3D, ...
- Molten metal 3D printers from EOS GMBH and Arcam AB
- Thingiverse: site allowing the sharing of free 3D models (under several licenses). For printing purposes STLs are normally needed but it can house any 3D format like .skp as well.
- OpenSCAD; a 3D modelling program that can output the 3D model directly in .STL. It is easy to work with using thingiverse because it allows easy manipulation of parametric designs by non-experts and is completely open source.
- Plug-in for Google SketchUp to export in .STL
- FastSpring, Turbosquid and Falling Pixel are other sites where regular 3D models (.skp) are often sold
- Ponoko: make and sell manufactured products (sending them worldwide) based on a .STL or VRML97 file
- Shapeways: print and send yourself manufactured items from a .skp or .STL file
- Parametric parts a new online service similar to openscad that has its own repository
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