3D printing has the power to truly change the way that we get things manufactured. This technology allows for the creation of virtually anything! Of course there are some parameters to worry about and of course there are some more efficient options in some situations, but 3D printing is going to change the world for its manufacturing capabilities. This technology is already impacting a wide array of industries currently. Some of these industries include the medical world, the prototyping business, product development, concept development, the dental world, and the maker movement. There are only more industries coming into play. I want to talk about the development of character models, and the manufacturing of toys.
Before I even go into that niche of 3D printing, let me try to explain what 3D printing is first, as well as the process in which it works. 3D printing is the layer by layer creation of pretty much whatever you want it to be. Essentially, a 3D printer will lay down layers of material onto a build tray. These layers of material will stack up until a final product is produced. There are various forms of 3D printing, some are very different than others. One style of printing known as SLA involves using ultraviolet lights to cure liquid resins into solids. Another form of this technology, FDM, involves melting down material and stacking it up layer by layer. One more style involves lasers melting material together. Another involves glue like binder holding material together, then solidifying it. There are quite a few processes behind 3D printing, but the only thing you really need to know is that it is done layer by layer.
How does the 3D printing process even begin? How does it work? Well, before anything can even be manufactured, it has to be designed. An artist, designer, engineer, or whatever you would like to call it will make a 3D model. This model is created through a type of software on the computer. When the final model is created, it can then be sent to the printing facility. The facility itself will then plug the model into the printer. As soon as the operator of the machine clicks 'go', the printer will create the piece. How is this process automated? 3D printers run on a Cam system, or a computer aided manufacturing system. What does this mean? Basically, the computer within the printer tells it how to produce the model. It tells the jets, lights, binding material, lasers, or whatever how and where to go. This is great, as it makes manufacturing very automated.
This technology can produce virtually anything, including character models. If a designer or artist can mock up a 3D model of a superhero, character in a cartoon show, or an actual person - it can be done. If it can be designed, anything can be manufactured within the parameters. There are materials that offer multiple colors, or full scales of colors. This is great for toys, as virtually any toy can be manufactured through this technology.