(By Michael Yang) You’ve probably only recently heard of 3D printers, machines that can make a computer model into a physical copy. Contrary to popular belief, 3D printing technology has been around since around the 1970’s, but was only really used in industrial environments. However, in light of new technologies, 3D printing has become much more widely available to consumers.
But how, might you ask, does this magical device work? Well the idea behind these is simple. While there exist many different kinds of 3D printers, they all run off of this same basic principle: putting down a material, layer by layer, until the model is complete. One of the most common ways a 3D printer actually “prints” is through an extrusion head. The 3D printer takes a CAD (computer aided design) model to use a a guideline for printing. Several motors control the movement the extrusion head. The extrusion head moves along a platform to lay down a material (generally plastic). After a layer is complete, the platform drops down a bit to accomodate for the new layer.
3D printing technology is still evolving and improving. Maybe one day 3D printers will be as common as standard printers are now.