Soo.. what is 3D printing?

You know what?
It is quite hard trying to explain to people, who are not familiar with 3D printing, what the technology entails.
If you are trying to explain it to others, automatically you start talking about 3D printing from a manufacturing point of view.. “it is like milling and machining, but then only additive, rather then starting with a block and then subtracting material, you start from the ground up”.. People give you a blank stare if you tell them this.. They switched off as soon as you said “milling”. They are not used to the jargon. They might have never seen a CNC milling machine.
Then you try and break it down into more recognisable aspects. You start by saying that a conventional printer takes your 2D document and converts it into a physical flat document that you hold in your hand. You explain that any 3D object that you design in the computer you can print in 3D in real life. Again, they give you that empty blank stare..They might say..”aahhaa.. yes..ok” but they don’t really comprehend.. They have probably never seen a CAD program in their life.

So.. I was thinking, if you completely had to forego the jargon and leave the manufacturing mumbo jumbo behind, how would you be able to explain to people what 3D printing is??

Perhaps we should at explaining it by using nature as an example. In effect 3D printing is biomimicry.

A spider spinning its web makes its web by extruding the silk out of its glands and attaching the silk in such a way that it makes a web that it can catch flies in. A great way to explain Fused Deposition Manufacturing.

Termites making a termite hill by putting pieces of mud on top of each other in such a way that they end up with a rock solid place they can live in.
Bees make their beehives out of beeswax and build impressive honeycomb structures to store food and raise their youngs.
These animals do not start with a block that they carve stuff out of, but they build it up out goopy build material. In effect, 3D printing is exactly the same!

Perhaps that is a better way to explain 3D printing?
Try it out, next time you have to explain what 3D printing is! See if the blank stare gets displaced by a eureka bulb!


3 thoughts on “Soo.. what is 3D printing?

  1. Pingback: Soo.. what is 3D printing? « MakePlace [Napier]

  2. How about trying to explain using an example most of us will understand.
    Once upon a time when we were small we probably have done some claying by using a blob of clay, rolling it into a round “stick” and then laying it on a base of clay. Thus trying to make a pretty vase or ash tray. Of course nowadays the ashtray is not popular anymore but you know what I mean.
    3D printing is a bit like putting those rolls of clay on top of each other and thus making a pretty vase or whatever. Instead of the clay we can use a roll of plastic and instead of our hand molding the clay into place we use a machine…..the 3D printer

    Any questions??

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