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You don’t have to be an engineer to create something amazing.

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You have heard about 3D Printing in the news and all over the Internet. The guys on the Big Bang Theory got a 3D printer, and even President Obama mentioned 3D Printing in the State of the Union address. By now you might be wondering: What the heck is 3D Printing? And why is everyone so excited about it? If you have been searching for answers, you already know that information about 3D Printing can be hard to find and often difficult to understand.

The Book on 3D Printing was written with you in mind; the Everyday Inventors -- designers, teachers, parents, and kids -- who will soon change the world with this astonishing technology. But before you can do that, you have to know how to use it! This book will take you on a tour of the growing 3D Printing industry and explain everything you need to know to start designing and printing your own creations. (No experience or fancy degree required!)

What is 3D Printing?
Selecting the 3D Printer for you
The care and feeding of your 3D Printer
Filaments, materials and more, oh my!

Learn all about making real things from digital objects

Common Questions About 3D Printing

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How do you print something in 3D?

3D Printing works by a process called additive manufacturing. This is a fancy way of saying that the machine builds a physical object from the ground up, one layer at a time

Do I need to wear 3D glasses?

No, unlike “3D” movies, which are still two-dimensional films using hollywood tricks to make things look 3D, objects from 3D printers are real, usable things that you can hold in your hand and use in your daily life

Is it true you can 3D print body parts?

No... and yes! Consumer 3D printers are not capable of printing ears or other fleshy replacements just yet, but projects like the "Open Source Arm Movement" have people all over the world working to harness 3D Printing to create more accessible prosthetics. Someday we might be able to create the body parts we need, or even upgrade the ones we have!

Can you 3D print a gun?

Yes. In early 2013, documents containing the files and instructions to print a gun called the Liberator were shared on the Internet. Although this gun can be 3D printed, it must be made to very exact specifications in order to operate safely. Under no circumstances do we advise printing or attempting to fire a 3D printed gun.

What kind of objects can be 3D printed?

Everything from common tools to banana slicers, upgrades for your favorite products, pin-hole cameras, and even the parts of some 3D printers themselves can be 3D printed. There is no limit to the ideas that can be realized with a 3D Printer.

Who should have/use/buy a 3D printer?

Anyone with an idea they want to create, make or invent from their desktop should explore 3D Printing. These machines are great tools for the workplace, and great fun for hobbyists, families and schools.

Is 3D Printing dangerous?

No, but some people may need to sit down after seeing one work for the first time! Parents should be aware that there is some risk of burn or injury from moving machine parts, so adult supervision is recommended.

Do I need to design the things I print?

One of the great joys of 3D printing is seeing a design you made come to life, and we highly recommend that everyone give it a try! If designing isn't your thing, or if you're in a hurry to get started, there are many web sites and online communities where you can download and print from a seemingly endless collection of objects.

Are 3D printed things recyclable?

That depends on the material your machine uses to "print" things. There are biodegradable plastics, such as PLA, that are popular for 3D Printing. However, some machines may also use oil-based plastic. This usually depends on the type of objects you need to print.

Can you 3D print food?

Some awesome hobbyists are designing machines that can make things like pizzas and burritos. Unfortunately, consumer 3D printers are not designed to serve up such delicious treats.

Is 3D Printing complicated?

Not with a copy of The Book on 3D Printing at hand!

Why do they call it a Replicator if it only prints plastic stuff?

We knew there was one half-Vulcan out there waiting to ask that question.... One line of 3D printers is indeed called a Replicator. That's because, even though the technology to make something on demand doesn’t exist yet, the 3D Printing industry hopes to achieve that vision of the future someday. This goal no doubt inspired the name.

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A New Industrial Revolution

“Tea...Earl Grey...hot.”

This command, famously given by Captain Jean-Luc Picard to the computer of the U.S.S. Enterprise, is much more than a drink order. Picard is speaking to a device called a “replicator,” which is equipped with a database of recipes from across the galaxy. Responding to the Captain’s voice command, the replicator identifies the correct design file for a cup of Earl Grey tea. It sets the custom parameter of temperature to “hot,” per the Captain’s request, and then produces the beverage on demand–cup and all.

Because the replicator works at the molecular level–translating the atoms of real life into the bits and bytes of digital information, and then back again–it can store the digital designs for everything from food and clothing to complex scientific equipment.

Star Trek’s replicator, while a work of fiction, is perhaps the single best way of describing the goal of 3D printing. Those who are working in this exciting field have been chasing after Captain Picard’s teacup for decades, believing that one day the dream of having “anything on-demand” will be a reality.

Star Trek’s replicator, while a work of fiction, is perhaps the single best way of describing the goal of 3D printing. Those who are working in this exciting field have been chasing after Captain Picard’s teacup for decades, believing that one day the dream of having “anything on-demand” will be a reality. That day is still far in our future, but advancements in material science, electronics and computing have made it possible to make some objects on demand. This work has given rise to machines that seem a lot more at home on the Enterprise than on your kitchen table.

3D printers, or machines that can fabricate physical objects, are surprisingly similar to Captain Picard’s replicator. Just like their 24th Century cousins, a 3D printer is capable of reading a digital design file and following the necessary instructions to produce the item. Unlike the replicator of the future, which manipulates molecules to build an object, a 3D printer shapes physical materials like plastic, metal, wood or ceramic to design specifications. This means that today we can use a 3D printer to make a teacup, a saucer and even a spoon, but no machine can fabricate the tea from its basic molecular elements, and certainly not all at the same time.

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Go inside a 3D printer, learning how it "thinks" and moves, as it turns your ideas into real things.

Beautiful, hand-drawn illustrations make this easy-to-understand text even easier.

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Build Plate Diagram

Become an expert on the features, functions, and modifications available, and find the right printer for you!

It's easy to learn
about 3D Printing...

  1. Get the book   Amazon
  2. Read the book
  3. Bring your ideas to life!
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Meet the Authors

Isaac Budmen is an artist, designer and lifelong inventor. He has logged thousands of hours on his own 3D printer, producing models, prototypes and finished products. His 3D-printed artwork has been featured at the London Science Museum and other venues.

Anthony Rotolo is a professor at Syracuse University and a leading expert on digital technologies. He is the founding director of the Starship NEXIS, a research laboratory that explores new and experimental areas like social networking and 3D printing.

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Budmen-Rotolo © 2013 | Press Materials