What is 3D Printing?
What Will it Mean for Our Future?
Changing Lives
Customisation for the Masses
Enabling Communities
Changing the Nature of Innovation

an exciting future technology.

There's little doubt that 3D printing is already changing the world in ways that the average person may not have even noticed. Let’s walk through a quick introduction to what 3D printing (additive manufacturing is the fancy term) actually is, the most common technology used (FDM), what are the benefits to the world and what kind of things you can create with it.

What is 3D printing?

3D Printing is the process of continuous adding layers of material with a computer controlled device to create a three-dimensional object. It’s more broadly known as additive manufacturing, because you add material to make a part, rather than cut it away from a piece of stock.
3D printers have been around since the late 70’s and have mostly been used for rapid prototyping. Modern printers are becoming more versatile though, producing finished products, prostheses, biomaterials, even jet engines and rockets.
The impact and applications of 3D printing are rapidly growing as more people are exposed to the technology.

What is 3D printing?

3D Printing is the process of continuous adding layers of material with a computer controlled device to create a three-dimensional object. It’s more broadly known as additive manufacturing, because you add material to make a part, rather than cut it away from a piece of stock.
3D printers have been around since the late 70’s and have mostly been used for rapid prototyping. Modern printers are becoming more versatile though, producing finished products, prostheses, biomaterials, even jet engines and rockets.
The impact and applications of 3D printing are rapidly growing as more people are exposed to the technology.

What is FDM printing?

The most common method of 3D printing is a process known as Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM). FDM printers such as our Me2 use thermoplastic filament, which is heated to it's melting point and then extruded, layer by layer to create the 3d object.

The process is simple:

1. Pre-processing: Building software slices and positions a 3D CAD file and works out the path to extrude thermoplastic.
2. Production: The printer heats the thermoplastic to a semi-liquid state and deposits it in ultra-fine beads along the extrusion path. If support is needed the printer deposits a removable material that acts as scaffolding.
3. Post-processing: the user breaks away the support material and the creation is ready.

What are the benefits of Additive Manufacturing?

3D printers are great at building complicated things quickly. Complex curvy surfaces, impossible-to-machine hollows, even pre-assembled mechanisms. No problem.
It can also be really cheap! A typical print from a Me2 will cost a few cents up to a couple of dollars worth of plastic.
With all this complexity available on the cheap, there’s no need for tens of thousands of dollars worth of tooling designed just to make one thing. Why not print your own custom shoes? Tools with your name on them? Or a prosthetic hand fit perfectly to size for the end user?

What are the benefits of Additive Manufacturing?

3D printers are great at building complicated things quickly. Complex curvy surfaces, impossible-to-machine hollows, even pre-assembled mechanisms. No problem.
It can also be really cheap! A typical print from a Me2 will cost a few cents up to a couple of dollars worth of plastic.
With all this complexity available on the cheap, there’s no need for tens of thousands of dollars worth of tooling designed just to make one thing. Why not print your own custom shoes? Tools with your name on them? Or a prosthetic hand fit perfectly to size for the end user?

How do I get started?

With a 3D printer you can let your imagination run wild! Design and print replacement parts, wild and wonderful characters, puzzle parts, game tokens… Whatever you can think of!
You'll need to do some 3D modelling to get exactly what you want though. Fortunately there’s loads of great (and free!) 3D modelling programs available for anyone to get started with.
If you're struggling with ideas you can check out some of the cool stuff artists and engineers have shared on My Mini Factory for inspiration.

Getting started guide

Now you know a little about the technology, have a look at our getting started guide. It walks you through the process of unboxing, setting up and connecting Me2, our education focussed FDM printer.
(Don't forget to register your Me2 for updates and the best help our support team can give!)