3D printers are a new generation of machines that can create any type of objects. Because of their portability and relatively low cost, they are quickly replacing the traditional factory production. This means that with the passing of time, this technology will be an important agent of change linked to the empowerment of individuals that will no longer be dependent on the distribution of supplies in order to create objects and their environment will depend on their own creativity.

Its uses include prototype creation for architects or engineers; scientists experimenting with cells; designers building toys, jewellery, cars, guns; skilful people creating home articles, bikinis, and musical instruments. Practically anything we can imagine can be built with these machines, but, how do they work?

Designing objects us done using a software platform called Computer Aided Design (CAD); an accessible program that allows you to design anything and see it in 3D. Using this software, a designer can create the representation of an object (or many objects, if what is being printed requires several components) , which is later divided into several layers of the same software that creates “slices” that the computer uses to build the object. A recent article published in the Independent defined the process as “baking a loaf of bread backwards”, which is a very accurate analogy. The printer prints the object in extremely thin slices and then overlaps the layers, melting them together.

To understand the 3D printing process it is necessary to understand the difference between subtractive manufacture and additive manufacture. The first refers to the process of taking a large object (a trunk, stone) and cutting it into the desired form; like sculpting a statue or a spoon. The second, the additive manufacture, allows for precise and quick constructions using available materials such as plastic and paper. This process only uses necessary materials; to a great extent reducing or eliminated waste. This is what 3D printers do.

Once the printer has received instructions in the form of STL files (which means standard tessellation language), it starts printing extremely thin slices. These layers are automatically joined while the printing process continues (depending on the printer, the union is achieved using granulated metals which are afterwards fused, using resins or melted plastic), resulting in a 3D object.

As ecologists, there are plenty of reasons to be excited. 3D printing could drastically reduce the amount of materials that are needed to manufacture everyday objects, and it would eliminate the need for an intense and complicated supply chain. Why would we have to ship spares from different parts of the world when we can print them in our local store?

Printing in this format could also make recycling easier. The printers’ owners could reuse plastic bottles and transform them into useful household items.

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3D printers are a new generation of machines that can create any type of objects. Because of their portability and relatively low cost, they are quickly replacing the traditional factory production. This means that with the passing of time, this technology will be an important agent of change linked to the empowerment of individuals that will no longer be dependent on the distribution of supplies in order to create objects and their environment will depend on their own creativity.

Its uses include prototype creation for architects or engineers; scientists experimenting with cells; designers building toys, jewellery, cars, guns; skilful people creating home articles, bikinis, and musical instruments. Practically anything we can imagine can be built with these machines, but, how do they work?

Designing objects us done using a software platform called Computer Aided Design (CAD); an accessible program that allows you to design anything and see it in 3D. Using this software, a designer can create the representation of an object (or many objects, if what is being printed requires several components) , which is later divided into several layers of the same software that creates “slices” that the computer uses to build the object. A recent article published in the Independent defined the process as “baking a loaf of bread backwards”, which is a very accurate analogy. The printer prints the object in extremely thin slices and then overlaps the layers, melting them together.

To understand the 3D printing process it is necessary to understand the difference between subtractive manufacture and additive manufacture. The first refers to the process of taking a large object (a trunk, stone) and cutting it into the desired form; like sculpting a statue or a spoon. The second, the additive manufacture, allows for precise and quick constructions using available materials such as plastic and paper. This process only uses necessary materials; to a great extent reducing or eliminated waste. This is what 3D printers do.

Once the printer has received instructions in the form of STL files (which means standard tessellation language), it starts printing extremely thin slices. These layers are automatically joined while the printing process continues (depending on the printer, the union is achieved using granulated metals which are afterwards fused, using resins or melted plastic), resulting in a 3D object.

As ecologists, there are plenty of reasons to be excited. 3D printing could drastically reduce the amount of materials that are needed to manufacture everyday objects, and it would eliminate the need for an intense and complicated supply chain. Why would we have to ship spares from different parts of the world when we can print them in our local store?

Printing in this format could also make recycling easier. The printers’ owners could reuse plastic bottles and transform them into useful household items.

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