Layer upon layer upon layer, the object forms according to plan. That's the gist of additive manufacturing, the technology behind the rise of 3-D printing.
Additive manufacturing enables a user to create three- dimensional objects by adding layer upon layer of material - plastic, metal, concrete or otherwise.
Potentially, such technology could produce any item created by a 3-D design.
"The sky really is the limit," said
Martin-Hiner has been giving students exposure to the technology with Keystone's 3-D printer.
"They get a glimpse of what the future might be like," he said.
Keystone's 3-D printer uses a process called extrusion, pushing plastic through a die to form objects.
"You need some kind of 3-D design put together on a computer," Martin-Hiner said. "You send that file, and (the software) essentially slices it into layers, like a topographical map."
The printer then lays down each of those layers in succession, fabricating the desired object.
Emerging applications of the technology include the creation of aircraft parts, dental restoration, medical implants, automobile parts and fashion products.
"It is no gimmick, believe me, as those in engineering and manufacturing are finding out," said
"While there are those who tout 3-D printing as replacing older manufacturing, the truth I think is that additive manufacturing is still improving its durability."
Garfield views 3-D printing as another manifestation of technology's ability to democratize production.
"Software, computer games, advertisements, video and film all have incorporated that shift from one central location to individual creators - 3-D printing is no different," he said.
Creating 3-D objects at home could create a multitude of possibilities.
"We'll first see 3-D printers' impact by providing two things that we need," Garfield said. "The first is hard-to-find spare parts for the everyday objects of our lives - coffee cups, door handle parts, plumbing pieces - that we will be able to design and make at home at any hour of the day. The second is a bit more futuristic - 3- D printing will attract the budding entrepreneur, the student who sees things just a bit differently and decides to create a prototype of a unique, new idea."
Layer upon layer upon layer, the object forms according to plan.
That's the gist of additive manufacturing, the technology behind the rise of 3-D printing.