Three dimensional printers are the next generation of printing peripherals to hit the residential market. Long gone are the days when printers were just confined to the most basic text and image jobs. Now, it's possible to forge various objects using different materials: all from the very same printer. They're also tentatively set to replace some manufacturing processes in a very similar way to how inkjet printers made the printing press redundant. So, what's beneath the surface and just how do these printers work? Let's find out.
Owners of these printers first begin by designing a three dimensional object on their home computers. This is perhaps easier said than done though. In fact, 3D modelling is one of the most time consuming skills that any prospective printer may be required to learn. Of course, it will pay dividends in the long run because it will ensure that printers create the exact object that they're looking for, but it won't be without quite a bit of legwork on their behalf.
Notice how “may be required” was noted above. This is because learning 3D modelling is in no way required to own a three dimensional printer. There are several well-established communities online that offer 3D models to their users. Some of these are ones users will be required to pay for, whereas others will be offered completely free of charge. However, owners should be forewarned that taking this route will mean they won't end up with exactly what they're looking for in terms of their print jobs. If owners are looking to print more generic objects, though, then this could be something well-worth looking into given the ease of use and guaranteed compatibility.
Once owners have their 3D model, then it's just a matter of sending the job to the printer similarly to how inkjet printers work. The printing process itself is a bit like baking a loaf of bread, but the process is reversed. Printers begin with thousands of “slices” that are assembled together within the 3D printer. Once assembled, the slices create a whole object and theoretically there's no limit to how many objects can be combined together. Printer owners have proven it's possible to create a working bicycle using printed components. It's just a matter of leaving the right grooves and slots in the right places when it comes time to assemble everything together.
Modelling skills undoubtedly take the crown as the best 3D printer skills to have, but even these aren't necessary given the strong communities that exist online. It's likely that these will only improve with time as well. It would certainly be worth your while to learn these skills for yourself though. Being dependent on other designs severely limits the opportunities that three dimensional printing can provide. It would be much better to have complete freedom when it comes to designing and printing three dimensional objects. That way, you're sure to end up with what you want to print in the first place!