3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. It all starts with making a virtual design of the object you want to create. This virtual design is for instance a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file. This CAD file is created using a 3D modeling application or with a 3D scanner (to copy an existing object). A 3D scanner can make a 3D digital copy of an object.
The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.
3D printing enables you to produce complex (functional) shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods. It is used in various fields including science engineering, architecture, medical, aerospace, automobile, educational, entertainment and much more.