Tech corner

A beginner's guide to 3D printing

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3D printing is one of the most exciting inventions of recent years, and the best thing about it is that with the right tools and know-how you can do it all from the comfort of your own home.

If you’re interested in investing in a 3D printer or you’re hoping for one for Christmas, check out our handy tips below to get an idea of what you’re in for.

 

What is 3D printing?

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process that refers to making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many successive thin layers of a material.

The earliest use of additive manufacturing was for rapid prototyping during the late 1980s and 1990s, but 3D printers these days are able to create whole finished products based on your creations. The process is much faster and cheaper, and the fact that you can do it from home gives you an added level of creative power.

 

What can I make with a 3D printer?

Your imagination is your best friend when it comes to 3D printing. You can make almost anything, including fashion accessories, toys, unique jewellery, gadgets, art, home décor and anything else you could possibly think of.

It’s perfect for owners of small thrifty businesses, as it makes it super simple to produce items that are one of a kind, or mass produce a specific design that you know will prove popular. It’s also great for creating exciting bits and pieces for your home, as they’re sure to be a real conversation starter.

 

Where do I start?

The first step in taking your idea from a simple sketch into a finished product is to recreate it using a 3D design programme. If you’re handy with tech, you can make your own 3D design, using a variety of applications such as Photoshop or SketchUp.

If you’re less confident about putting the final design model together on your own, don’t worry – there are many design companies that can do it for you for a fee. All you need to do is send them your designs and requirements, such as size and colours, and they’ll do the tricky 3D bits for you.

If you’re wary about printing the design yourself, you can also use these external companies to 3D print your item, which is handy if you’re a first-timer worried about the outcome. We suggest checking out NFire Labs in Hull’s C4DI.

 

How do I choose a 3D printer that’s right for me?

There’s a wide range of 3D printers available to purchase for home or business use. The price range varies, so it’s best to decide how often you’ll use the printer and how high tech you want it to be before you make the purchasing plunge.

Current 3D printers on Amazon include the Comgrow Creality Ender, clocking in at £193.99, and the pricier BIBO 3D printer, costing £689.99.

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