A 3D printer, using an additive process, produces a number of cross-sectional slices via a 3D computer file. The individual slices are then layered on top of each other to produce a 3D object. 3D printers can create models that resemble product prototypes in look and function, but they also come with disadvantages.
3D printers often use liquid polymers, or a powder comprised of resin or plaster to build object layers. These materials render 3D printers unable to produce large-sized objects due to lack of material strength. Large-sized objects also often are impractical due to the extended amount of time necessary for a 3D printer to produce the parts.
3D printer-generated object parts often possess a rough and ribbed surface finish. This appearance is due to plastic beads or large-sized powder particles that are stacked on top of each other, giving the end product an unfinished look.
3D printers are considered an expensive investment. Entry level 3D printers average approximately £3,250 and can go as high as £32,500 for higher end models, not including the cost of accessories and resins or other operational materials.