3D printing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. It is achieved using additive processes, where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material. Consumer-grade printers are used to create toys, tool parts, and jewelry, among other things.
3D printing, or additive manufacturing (AM), is used to make solid objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies, such as traditional machining. The technology can be used anywhere throughout the product life cycle from pre-production (i.e. rapid prototyping) to full scale production (rapid manufacturing) and even for post-production customisation.
Consumer-oriented 3D printers are cheaper, smaller, slower, and are usually lower resolution than their industrial counterparts. 3D printing can be used for creating virtually any kinds of reasonably sized solid objects and even fairly complex machinery that is assembled from 3D printed parts. Consumer printers are still used for rapid prototyping, but also for entertainment purposes, e.g. printing models of virtual characters and play equipment such as dice. Notable companies providing 3D printed characters include FigurePrints and Makie Lab.