Whether you know them as "rapid prototyping," "additive manufacturing," or some other buzzword, the processes, technologies, and tools of 3D printing are developing at such a rapid pace that it's easy to be overwhelmed or confused by the ever-increasing range of options. This report helps demystify the field of 3D printing, by outlining the strengths and liabilities of the different types of processes that are currently available, along with an indication of advancements to be on the lookout for in the near future.
Because there are many ways to "3D print" an object, this report focuses on distinctions between the various methods (including lithography-based methods, robot-controlled extrusion methods, powder-bed methods, and a few more exotic processes), providing examples of each process in the commercial, consumer, and DIY/open source markets. Rather than promote or endorse a particular make or model of 3D printer (or type of printer), the purpose of this survey is to help identify the right type of printer for particular uses, narrowing the field to a more manageable number of candidates. You'll also learn about concerns and limitations that apply to all methods, which will help inform your selection process when searching for the perfect 3D printer for your needs.