3D printing is an additive technology, involving the application of successive layers of material creating a three-dimensional object. Its opposite is subtractive technology, where the target model is cut out (e.g. milled). Models are made based on a digital file that usually has the extension .stl. The model is converted into a series of machine commands using special software that allows the 3D printer to create (print) the desired spatial object.

Conceptual work on 3D printing technology began in the 1960s, but its beginning is considered to be 1984, when Charles Hull - the future founder of 3D Systems, developed the first 3D printing technology - SLA (stereolithography) and a file to describe spatial models based on triangles with the extension .stl. In Poland, the beginnings of 3D printing date back to the second half of the 90s, when the first three-dimensional printing devices began to appear at technical universities. The first companies providing 3D printing services appeared in the mid-00s, then the Polish 3D printing industry was born. 3D printing is most widely used in industry. It is primarily used for rapid prototyping, i.e. creating conceptual models based on which target products or their components are created in other industrial technologies (e.g. injection).

In addition, 3D printing is used in medicine and dentistry (creating prototypes of implants) as well as architecture and design. After 2010, there was a very dynamic development of the so-called low-budget 3D printers based on FDM technology, which caused the popularization of all technology in the world. Today, 3D printing is used to a very wide extent also by individual users to create various models having a hobby or entertainment character.

3D printing is divided into a number of different technologies. The most important and popular are:

  • FDM - 3D printing from thermoplastics (e.g. ABS, PLA, nylon)
  • SLA - 3D printing from resins cured by laser light
  • DLP - 3D printing from projector light cured resins
  • PolyJet / MJM - 3D printing from UV light cured resins
  • CJP - full color 3D printing from binder gypsum powder
  • SLS - 3D printing from powdered polymers sintered with laser light
  • DMLS - 3D printing from powdered metal sintered with laser light.