3D manufacturing technology starts with digitally designing a product or object in 3D manufacturing software. The program acts as the single source of truth for the entire manufacturing process. As engineers and designers iterate and finesse the design, it connects with assembly-line devices such as 3D printers to keep the process on track and give manufacturers the freedom to experiment.
For example, when a designer sends a design to a 3D printer, the instructions for applying layers come directly from the 3D model in a CAD-style software platform. Build-preparation software separates the 3D model into layers the device will apply to the build. The data effectively comprises digital coordinates sent to a print head, nozzle, or extruder.
The data has come directly from the 3D representation of the design, which affects every part of the manufacturing process.
Traditional manufacturing that uses lathes or mills is a subtractive process, gradually removing material from a piece of unformed wood, metal, plastic, and so forth to arrive at the intended design.
Incorporating design changes is complex, static, and expensive when using traditional subtractive processes. In contrast, 3D manufacturing can produce a new object every time. It’s deployable on any scale necessary to make changes, or it can quickly prototype or test changes to projects outside primary workflows.
3D manufacturing software has found a natural home in several industries and sectors, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, and more.
3D manufacturing software also makes process artifacts cheaper, reducing overall costs for industries like oil and gas or mechanical engineering. And because it’s scalable down to a single product (or countless physical variations of the same product), it offers unique customization properties perfect for the health care and medical device sectors.