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The RepRap project is an initiative to develop a 3D printer that can print most of its own components. RepRap (short for replicating rapid prototyper) uses anadditive manufacturing technique called Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) to lay down material in layers; a plastic filament or metal wire is unwound from a coil and supplies material to produce a part. The project calls it Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) to avoid trademark issues around the "fused deposition modeling" term. Now RepRaps have been built that can print in any type of material. As an open design, all of the designs produced by the project are released under a free software license, the GNU General Public License.Due to the self-replicating ability of the machine, authors envision the possibility to cheaply distribute RepRap units to people and communities, enabling them to create (or download from the Internet) complex products without the need for expensive industrial infrastructure (distributed manufacturing) including scientific equipment. They intend for the RepRap to demonstrate evolution in this process as well as for it to increase in number exponentially. A preliminary study has already shown that using RepRaps to print common products results in economic savings, which justifies the investment in a RepRap.


What is 3D Printing?

3D Printing (often called rapid prototyping or additive manufacturing ) is a manufacturing process that allows computer generated 3D models to be transformed into a physical objects through a layered printing process. The techniques were initially devised in the 90s as a means to produce relatively inexpensive prototype parts for industrial and automotive design work, however as costs begin to fall, 3D printing is finding its way into an expanding variety of industries.Because of its cost-effectiveness and versatility, the advent of additive manufacturing ultimately has the potential to be as important and game-changing as the introduction of the assembly line a hundred years ago.

How does 3D printing work?

Although there are a handful of different 3D printing methods, the basic procedure is relatively consistent from one to the next. In additive manufacturing, three-dimensional objects are created from a raw material in either liquid or particle form. Using the digital model as a guide, a 3D printer deposits microscopically thin layers of the raw material, and the print gradually materializes as the layers are built up step by step by step. The amount of detail possible in a 3D print is determined by the thinness of the layers, and the raw material can be anything from synthetic resin, to ceramic powder, metal, or even glass.The 3D printing process is actually quite involved. If you're interested in a more in depth examination of the procedure take a look here.We'll also look at the different types of 3D printers, some of the companies that make them, and explore the advantages and disadvantages of each.

What are the applications for 3D Printing?

The standard application for 3D printing has traditionally been rapid prototyping in mechanical and automotive design settings. 3D printing makes it quick and inexpensive to produce concept models, and perform fit & functionality tests. The technology has even advanced to the point where it is possible to print small quantities of production quality parts.However in the last decade prices for 3D printers and raw materials have fallen, opening the door to non-industrial applications. This list is far from comprehensive—3D printing could literally have applications in hundreds of niches, but here are some current outlets for the technology:Fine art: Jewelry making, sculpture, etc.Retail/Entertainment: Figurines, toys, etc.Architectural visualization: Pre-viz models can be produced quickly and inexpensively.Healthcare: Custom implants, prosthetics, educational models. Although it's far off, the possibility of organ printing is being actively explored.Geospatial: Geographic or topological models can be produced directly from raw GIS data.

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