What is 3D Printing?


Also known as rapid prototyping, 3D printing refers to technologies that construct physical objects from three-dimensional (3D) digital content such as computer aided design (CAD), computer aided tomography (CAT), and X-ray crystallography. A 3D printer builds a tangible model or prototype from the file, one layer at a time, using an inkjet-like process to spray a bonding agent onto a very thin layer of fixable powder. The bonding agent can be applied very accurately to build an object from the bottom up, layer by layer. The process even accommodates moving parts within the object. Using different powders and bonding agents, color can be applied, and prototype parts can be rendered in plastic, resin, or metal. This technology is commonly used in manufacturing to build prototypes of almost any object (scaled to fit the printer, of course) — models, plastic and metal parts, or any object that can be described in three dimensions.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?


  • 3D printing is somewhat over-hyped in my opinion. It is certainly relevant, indeed highly relevant to design/engineering disciplines in HE, because 3D printing is now a reality in professional practice. Otherwise, we tend to see a lot of misguided 'dabbling' with cheap, low end 3D printers that cannot be regarded as a good investment. - jimdevine jimdevine Feb 11, 2015
  • 3D prinntng seems to be just past the peak of Gartner's 2014 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies Maps the Journey to Digital Business http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2819918 - still has application in eduation especially iterative design and prototyping etc [- Muiris.OGrady Muiris.OGrady Feb 17, 2015]
  • 3D printing has applications in fashion, design, engineering, medical sectors to name a few. Recent developments have demonstrated the appropriate use of 3D for prosthetics such as a nose for reconstructive surgery, printing of titanium powder to make robotic arms and complex metallic structures http://EandTmagazine.com, volume 10 issue 2 March 2015 - ken.brown ken.brown Feb 20, 2015

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on third-level education in Ireland?

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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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