3D printers are a new generation of machines capable of creating everyday objects. They are amazing because they can produce different types of objects, in different materials, all from the same machine.

A 3D printer can make virtually anything, from ceramic mugs to plastic toys, metal machine parts, stoneware vases, fancy chocolate cakes, or even (one day soon) human body parts.

They replace traditional factory production lines with a single machine, just as home inkjet printers replaced ink bottles, a printing press, hot metal type, and a drying rack.


If you look carefully (with a microscope) at a page of text from your home printer, you'll see that the letters don't just smear the paper, but are actually slightly above the surface of the page.

In theory, if you printed on the same page a few thousand times, the ink would eventually build up enough layers on top of each other to create a solid 3D model of each letter. The idea of ​​building a physical form out of tiny layers is how early 3D printers worked.


You start by designing a 3D object on a regular home PC, connect it to a 3D printer, hit "print" and then sit back and watch. The process is a bit like making a loaf of sliced ​​bread, but in reverse. Imagine baking each individual slice of bread and then gluing them together to form a whole loaf (instead of making a whole loaf and then slicing it, like a baker does). This is basically what a 3D printer does.

The 3D printing process turns an entire object into thousands of tiny slices, then builds it from the bottom up, slice by slice. Those tiny layers come together to form a solid object. Each layer can be very complex, meaning 3D printers can create moving parts such as hinges and wheels as part of the same object. You can print an entire bicycle - handlebars, saddle, frame, wheels, brakes, pedals and chain - already assembled, without using any tools. It's just a matter of leaving gaps in the right places.


Have you ever broken something, only to find that it's no longer for sale and you can't replace it? 3D printing means you can simply print a new one. That world, where you can do almost anything at home, is very different from the one we live in today. It is a world that does not need trucks to deliver goods or warehouses to store them, where nothing is ever out of stock and where there is less waste, packaging and pollution.

It is also a world where everyday objects are tailor-made, based on your needs. That means furniture custom-made for your home, shoes custom-made for your feet, doorknobs custom-made for your hand, meals printed to your taste at the touch of a button. Also medicines, bones, organs and skin made to heal your wounds.

You can get some of these things now if you're rich, but 3D printing offers affordable custom manufacturing to the masses. If this sounds like pure fantasy, try Googling “custom 3D printed products” and see for yourself. After all, the idea of ​​grocery shopping on an iPad was like something out of Star Trek 20 years ago.


Although buying a 3D printer is much cheaper than setting up a factory, the cost per item produced is higher, so the economics of 3D printing are still not comparable to traditional mass production. It also cannot match the smooth finish of industrial machines, nor offer the variety of materials or range of sizes available through industrial processes. But, as with many home technologies, prices will drop and 3D printer capabilities will improve over time.

Back to blog