What is 3D Printing? A complete guide on processes, applications, pros, and cons

3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that has long transitioned from a futuristic concept to a practical tool with a wide range of applications. This advanced manufacturing technique is driving innovation across various industries and is enabling the production of numerous products and technologies, from custom medical implants to mass-produced jet engine parts. So, what is 3D printing, and is it applicable to your project?

This guide explores everything you need to know about the 3D printing manufacturing process, from the different 3D printing processes and technologies to compatible materials and applications.

Table of contents

What is 3D printing?

How to 3D print parts. The 3D printing manufacturing steps

How does 3D printing work? 3D Printing processes

3D printing technologies

3D Printing Applications

What are the advantages of 3D printing manufacturing? 3D printing benefits

What are the disadvantages of 3D printing manufacturing? 3D printing limitations


3D printing FAQs

What is 3D printing?

3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that creates three-dimensional objects by depositing material in consecutive layers until the complete object geometry forms. This process is carried out by machines known as 3D printers or 3D printing machines, which are controlled by embedded computers. The computers follow pre-designed digital 3D models of the object, guiding the printer to create the physical object layer by layer.

The “printing” in 3D printing derives from the similarity between the layer-by-layer technique of the process and the line-by-line technique of modern paper and ink printers. Similarly, the term “additive” stems from how this process creates parts by progressively “adding” layers of raw material to form a complete part. This process contrasts subtractive manufacturing processes, such as CNC machining, in which portions of a block of material are carved out to create a part. It is also different from formative manufacturing processes, such as injection moulding, that make parts by forming raw material in prefabricated moulds.

3D printing is compatible with thermoplastics, resins, metals, ceramics, and composite materials. This fast and precise manufacturing method can produce standalone custom parts and fully functional assemblies. It is also applicable to rapid prototyping and batch manufacturing.

There are different 3D printing technologies and processes with varying characteristics and capabilities. Before exploring these, it is essential to understand the 3D printing manufacturing process, from idea conceptualisation to the finished product.

How to 3D print parts. The 3D printing manufacturing steps

While there are many types of 3D printing, They all follow the same broadly defined steps to create a part. The actual printing is just one step, with the complete 3D printing manufacturing process from conceptualisation to the final product involving five steps.

  • Creating a 3D digital model of the object
  • Slicing the model and converting it to G-code
  • Setting up the 3D printer
  • 3D Printing the object
  • Post-processing and finishing

Creating a 3D digital model of the part

The first step in the 3D printing manufacturing process is creating a 3D digital model of the desired object. There are different methods of doing this, the most popular being Computer-Aided Design (CAD). In CAD, a designer creates a digital replica of the object from scratch, applying real-life dimensions and tolerances to the model.

CAD model design

A critical step in the design process is optimising the model for 3D printing. This step, known as Design For Manufacturing (DFM), involves accounting for size and geometry limitations, materials, tolerance, and support structures (structures that aren't part of the final object but are required for the printing process). See our DFM guide for more information.

Other methods of creating digital models are 3D scanning and digital photography. 3D scanning entails using digital scanners to capture the 3D geometry of an existing object. Digital photography, on the other hand, involves taking multiple photos of an existing object and extracting 3D geometries from the images using photogrammetry software. Unlike CAD, these methods require the object to exist and are prone to errors. After creating and optimising the model, the designer exports the digital file.

In addition to CAD, 3D printing design guide often incorporates techniques like 3D scanning and digital photography for capturing existing objects' geometries, offering diverse approaches to model creation.

Model splitting and conversion to machine language

Designers export digital model files in various 3D printing file formats, including STL, OBJ, AMF, and FBX, depending on the 3D printing process, part geometry, part features and colours, and originating software. However, 3D printers do not process 3D models directly. The models must first undergo further processing and conversion to G-code, a machine-readable programming language. Specialised CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) slicing software slices the model into numerous thin layers and generates G-code based on these layers. The image below is a section of 3D printing G-code for printing a rectangular structure.

Sample 3D printing G-code

The G-code contains instructions that control the 3D printer’s movements and processes required to produce the object. These instructions dictate layer resolution, printing speed, movement of the printer’s mechanisms, and other parameters. The CAM software generates additional commands that control other aspects of the 3D printing process, such as temperature and machine start and stop. 

Setting up the 3D printer and raw material.

An operator imports the G-code from the CAM software to the 3D printer via USB, ethernet, or Wi-Fi and introduces the raw material into the machine. Depending on the 3D printing process, this may involve attaching a spool of material, preparing a powder bed, pouring in liquid resin, or preparing sheets of material.

Executing the printing processes

After setting up the 3D printing machine and raw material, the operator initiates the printing process. From then on, human input is only required if there's an issue. The 3D printer begins to deposit/consolidate material in consecutive layers as created by the slicing software. The deposition and layer consolidation methods vary significantly in different 3D printing technologies.


When the printing is complete, the operator removes the part or assembly from the 3D printer for post-processing. Post-processing is an essential step in most 3D printing processes. Post-processing operations, which often differ between 3D printing technologies, may be necessary and functional or aesthetic and optional. The image below is a 3D-printed part dyed green for aesthetic purposes.

A 3D printed part dyed green

3D printing post-processing operations include:

  • Removal of excess material: Support structure removal, burning or brushing off excess material.
  • Surface finishing: Deburring, polishing, blasting, sanding, media tumbling, vapour polishing, smoothing, coating, painting, and dyeing.
  • Treatment: Heat treatment, chemical treatment, annealing, etc.

3D printing post-processing may involve additional steps, such as drilling holes and joining parts together. Post-processing is a broad aspect of 3D printing, encompassing several operations and techniques. For more information on various 3D printing post-processing operations, see our guide on 3D printing post-processing.

How does 3D printing work? 3D Printing processes

The next aspect of comprehensively exploring what is 3D printing is understanding the 3D printing processes. The term 3D printing does not refer to a single technology or process. Rather, it is a broadly defined term describing additive manufacturing technologies that create objects by depositing raw material layer-by-layer until the parts form. There are many different 3D printing technologies that vary by the following:

  • Materials and raw material state: Plastics and metals are the most common 3D printing materials. The raw materials (feedstock) may be in solid(wire), liquid, or powder form.
  • Method of deposition (feedstock delivery): The mechanism of introducing raw material to the 3D printing machine
  • Layer consolidation: How consecutive layers form and fuse. Methods include melting, sintering, curing, or binding.

While the various 3D printing technologies all utilise the (create parts by the layer) characteristic progressive layers techniques, layer by layer printing technique, the actual 3D printing processes and 3D printers the technologies use vary. The existing 3D printing technologies fall under the seven 3D printing processes. These processes, as defined by the ISO/ASTM 52900-2021 manufacturing standard, are as follows:

  • Vat photopolymerisation
  • Powder bed fusion
  • Binder jetting
  • Material jetting
  • Material extrusion
  • Directed energy deposition
  • Sheet lamination

These 3D processes have varying characteristics, benefits, limitations, and material compatibilities.

Vat photo-polymerisation

The Vat photopolymerisation 3D printing process involves a vat of photosensitive resin and a curing light source. In this process, the light source selectively traces out and cures consecutive layers of an object till the object forms. The process begins with the build plate immersed in the vat of resin, and, depending on the specific technology, the build plate may rise out of the vat or descend deeper after each layer prints.

The build plate starts below the surface if the light source is above the resin vat. It lowers after each layer solidifies, allowing another layer of uncured resin to flow above the previously cured one. Conversely, if the light source is below the resin vat, the build plate starts at the bottom and rises upwards after each layer. The image below shows a printer with the light source below the build plate.

The vat photopolymerisation process

After printing, the part is removed from the build tray and rinsed in a solvent liquid to remove excess resin. Next, support structures are physically removed from the part. The part then undergoes further curing in an oven to increase its strength. 

Stereolithography (SLA) and direct light processing (DLP) are 3D printing technologies that use the vat polymerisation process. In SLA 3D printing, a single-point laser traces out and solidifies each layer on the surface of the liquid, similar to drawing. Conversely, DLP uses a light projector screen to project each layer as an entire image onto the liquid’s surface at once, similar to stamping.

Vat photopolymerisation produces precise parts with high detail and fine finishing. However, these parts are not suitable for outdoor usage as cured resins are susceptible to a reduction in physical appearance and mechanical strength when exposed to sunlight in the long term.

Powder bed fusion

The powder bed fusion (PBF) 3D printing process utilises a high-energy heat laser and a bed of atomised powder particles. The laser traces out a layer’s geometry onto the surface of the powder bed, causing the particles to selectively fuse in the desired shape. Depending on the laser temperature and printing technology, fusion may be achieved through sintering or melting.

The build plate drops by the depth of a layer (30 to 60 micrometres), and a moving arm sweeps across the powder bed, depositing a fresh coat of power. These processes alternate until the fill object forms. After printing, the object is removed from the powder bed, and the excess powder is cleaned off. The remaining material powder in the powder bed can be reused. The image below shows a laser tracing out a laser on a powder bed before the recoating arm deposits more powder.

The powder bed fusion process

Powder bed 3D printing is compatible with both metals and plastics. This 3D printing process produces highly complex geometries and parts with good mechanical properties. Other advantages are its ability to print multiple parts at once and to print without support structures.

Post-printing excess material removal

Common power bed fusion 3D printing technologies include selective laser sintering (SLS), multijet fusion (MJF), and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). These are sintering technologies that keep the powders below their melting point. SLS prints plastics, while DMLS is for metals. MJF (Multi-Jet Fusion) combines powder bed fusion with binder jetting, another 3D printing process. Other powder bed fusion technologies are selective laser melting (SLM) and Electron beam melting (EBM). These technologies heat the materials beyond their melting point, effectively melting them and creating more dense parts.

Binder jetting

The binder jetting 3D printing process is similar to powder bed fusion as it also utilises a bed of atomised powder particles. However, unlike PBF, binder jetting uses a binder to fuse the powder. The print head selectively deposits a binder liquid on the powder bed in areas corresponding to the layer’s geometry. This binds the powder in the shape of the layer. The build platform drops and a horizontal arm deposits a fresh coat of powder. The processes repeat alternatingly till the object forms. After printing, the part is removed from the bed, and excess material is cleaned off.

Binder jetting diagram

Binder jetting is compatible with various materials, including metals, plastics, and ceramics. Metal parts are subjected to post-processing sintering to fuse the particles further and burn off the binder. MJF 3D printing combines powder bed fusion and material jetting.

Material jetting

The material jetting 3D printing process involves a moving print head with a UV light source and nozzles connecting to containers of liquid photopolymer resins. The resins are heated to suitable temperatures of 40 to 70 degrees to improve flow viscosity. As the print head moves, the nozzles spray droplets of the photopolymer resin in areas that correspond to the geometry of a layer onto a build plate, followed immediately by a curing UV light. The layer solidifies, and these processes repeat until the object forms from the ground up. After printing, the part is rinsed off and trimmed of support structures.

Material jetting diagram

One of the highly beneficial characteristics of this process is that advanced forms of the technique can perform multi-material and multicolour printing. This is achieved using multiple nozzles containing various types of resins. Material jetting is also highly accurate, producing highly detailed parts with excellent surface finish. However, this process can be relatively costly, and its finished products are susceptible to damage outdoors. The most common material jetting 3D printing technology is polyjet 3D printing.

Material extrusion

Material extrusion is one of the most popular 3D printing processes. When most people ask what is 3D printing, they likely have a material extrusion technology in mind. This 3D printing process involves feeding the feedstock through a heated nozzle affixed to a print head. As the molten material flows through the nozzle, the printing head traces out the object’s geometry, depositing material in continuous consecutive layers until the part forms. The image below shows a Fused Deposition Modelling 3D printer printing a part out of plastic.

The material extrusion process

Material extrusion can print metals and plastics. For plastics, the feedstock is typically a wire mounted on a spool. For metals, the feedstock is a mixture of metal powder and a polymer. After printing, metal parts require sintering to burn off the thermoplastic and strengthen the part. This material extrusion 3D printing process is relatively fast and low-cost. However, it produces parts with rough finishes and less structural integrity than its counterparts.

Direct energy deposition

The direct energy deposition (DED) 3D printing process involves a feedstock delivery nozzle and a high-energy source such as a laser or an electron beam. In this process, the delivery nozzle and the energy source are in very close proximity and move uniformly. In some builds, the energy source is incorporated into the delivery nozzle. As the delivery nozzle deposits the material on the build plate, the energy beam simultaneously melts and fuses the material.

Direct energy deposition

The print head progressively traces out the part geometry layer by layer until the complete object forms. The direct energy deposition 3D printing process is in contrast to material extrusion 3D printing, which heats the material in the nozzle before extrusion. This process is compatible with both plastics and metals.

Sheet lamination

The sheet lamination 3D printing process is less popular than its counterparts. As the name suggests, this process works by joining thin sheets of material together to form a part. This 3D process typically works with other manufacturing processes, such as sheet cutting and part joining. There are several variations of the sheet lamination process, but they all have similar operations. The process requires a mechanism for stacking the sheets, a cutting mechanism that traces out the layers, and a fusion process that fuses consecutive layers.

The stacking mechanism may be a continuously unwinding roll of thin materials or mechanisms that place the uncut sheets on the previous layers and remove the excess material of the cut sheets. Lasers, water jets, or cutting tools may perform the cutting. Lastly, the fusion methods include adhesives, welding, hot rolling, and other techniques. The machine in the image below combines a roll of sheet metal, a laser cutter, and a hot roller fusing mechanism.

Sheet lamination 3D printing

Sheet lamination is compatible with thermoplastics, sheet metals, paper, glass, and composites such as carbon fibre and Kevlar.

3D printing technologies 

There are numerous 3D printing technologies that utilise one or more of the seven processes. However, a few of these technologies are significantly more popular than others due to their availability and beneficial characteristics. The most widely used 3D printing technologies are:

  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
  • Multi-Jet Fusion (MJF)
  • Fusion Deposition Modelling (FDM)
  • Stereolithography (SLA)
  • Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS)
  • Polyjet

Geomiq offers a wide range of 3D printing technologies and materials. Visit our 3D printing page to learn more about these technologies and how they suit your application.

SLS 3D printing

SLS 3D printing is a powder bed fusion technology that creates parts by selectively sintering layers of material powder using a high-energy heat source. The image below is an SLS 3D-printed part from PA 12.

SLS 3D printed part

Materials: Nylon PA 2200 (PA 12), Nylon PA 11, PP, Glass-filled PA 12, Alumide®, and flexible TPU.


  • Fast and accurate
  • Produces parts with excellent mechanical properties
  • Can print highly complex geometry in excellent detail
  • Does not require support structures during printing


  • Produces a grainy surface finish
  • Relatively high cost

Maximum part size: 340 mm x 340 mm x 605 mm. We recommend 320 mm x 320 mm x 580 mm to prevent warping, distortion, and inaccuracy. Larger builds can be printed in smaller pieces to be assembled post-printing.

Tolerance: ±0.3% (with a lower limit of ±0.3 mm). Tolerances may change with part geometry.

Learn more about SLS 3D printing

MJF 3D printing

MJF 3D printing is a proprietary 3D printing technology developed by HP that combines powder bed fusion technology and binder jetting. In the process, a nozzle sprays a binder fluid onto a powder bed in the geometry of the object's layers. This is followed by sintering by a high-energy thermal beam. The image below is a PA 12, MJF 3D-printed part.

MJF 3D printed part

Materials: PA 12, PA 11, PP, and TPU 95A


  • Produces highly accurate, complex parts rapidly
  • Produces durable parts with excellent mechanical properties
  • Minimal material wastage as leftover powder can be reused
  • Does not require support structures during printing


  • Produces a grainy surface finish
  • Relatively limited material range from HP 

Maximum part size: 370mm x 274mm x 375mm. We recommend 200mm x 200mm x 200mm to prevent warping, distortion and inaccuracy. Larger builds can be printed in smaller pieces to be assembled post-printing

Tolerance: ±0.3% (with a lower limit of ±0.3 mm). Tolerances may vary based on part geometry.

Learn more about MJF 3D printing

SLA 3D printing 

SLA 3D printing is a vat polymerisation 3D printing technology that uses a light source to selectively cure consecutive lasers of a liquid photopolymer resin. The image below is an SLA 3D-printed part, printed from black resin.

SLA 3D printed part

Materials: Industrial Black-ABS-Like, Industrial Heat resistant-PC-like, Silica Glass, Standard Durable-PP-like, Standard Flexible 80A, Silicone-like, True Silicone, etc.


  • Produces excellent smooth surface finish
  • Produces highly accurate, high-resolution parts
  • Big print size
  • Compatible with a variety of speciality materials


  • Finished parts are not suitable for outdoor usage
  • Requires support structures

Maximum part size: 500mm x500mm x 500mm (Industrial)

Tolerances & accuracy: Standard ±0,5% (±0,2 mm lower limit), Industrial ±0,5% (±0,15 mm lower limit)

Learn more about SLA 3D printing

FDM 3D printing

The FDM 3D printing technology creates parts by material extrusion. A heated nozzle heats and extrudes material in a molten state, depositing the material in consecutive layers to form an object.

FDM 3D printed part

Materials: PA11, PA12, TPU-95A, Ultrasint, TPU, PETG, PLA, ASA, ABS M30, ULTEM


  • Compatible with an extensive range of materials.
  • Relatively low cost
  • Can print large-sized objects
  • Suitable for both prototyping and industrial applications


  • Struggles with intricate details
  • Produces stepped surface finish
  • Parts produced may not be as strong as their counterparts

Maximum part size: 500mm x500mm x 500mm

Tolerance: ± 0.5% with a lower limit of ± 0.5 mm

Learn more about FDM 3D printing

DMLS 3D printing

Direct metal laser sintering is a metal 3D printing technology that utilises a high-energy thermal laser to selectively sinter a bed of atomised metal powder.

DMLS 3D printed part

Materials: Aluminium, Cobalt Chrome, Steel, Stainless Steel, Inconel, Titanium, etc.


  • Can produce highly complex geometries 
  • Prints parts with excellent strength
  • Compatible with numerous post-processing operations
  • Minimal material wastage


  • Limited material options
  • Relatively high cost

Maximum part size: 400 mm x 400 mm x 400 mm. We recommend 250 mm x 250 mm x 325 mm.

Tolerance: ±0.2% (0.1 – 0.2 mm)

Learn more about DMLS 3D printing

Selecting the right 3D printing technology for your application 

The following are some factors to consider and questions to ask when selecting a 3D printing technology for an application.

  • Application requirements: Does the part require specific mechanical, physical, or electrical chemical properties? What operating environment would the part be exposed to? For example, FDM is not recommended for high-strength parts.
  • Material: Does the object require specific materials and material properties? For example, liquid resins can only be printed by vat polymerisation technologies. Similarly, metals require DMLS 3D printing technology.
  • Surface finish: Is surface finishing critical to the part's functionality? Do you desire a specific roughness?
  • Post-processing: Would you like to add specific functionalities and aesthetics to the part through post-processing operations? Are these operations compatible with the part?
  • Part complexity: How complex is the part geometry? Does the part have detailed features? Is it a single part or a complete assembly? Is it multicoloured or multi-material?

3D printing technology for your application

Note that these factors are interrelated. Therefore, it is imperative to jointly review the factors when selecting a technology for your application rather than deciding based on one factor alone. The table below shows different factors and corresponding suitable technologies.

3D Printing Applications

3D Printing is a highly versatile manufacturing process with various applications across numerous industries. One of the reasons behind the versatility and widespread usage of this process is the variety of 3D printing technologies available. Each of these technologies has unique capabilities, compatibilities, benefits, and drawbacks, collectively making 3D printing capable of most manufacturing applications.

3D printing can produce countless complex geometries and is compatible with a wide range of materials. The applications of this additive manufacturing process can be categorised into:

  • Prototyping
  • Custom one-off productions
  • Batch manufacturing

Prototyping: 3D printing is a go-to rapid prototyping technique for manufacturers. This process allows engineers to rapidly design and produce multiple prototypes, speeding up product development cycles and facilitating innovation.

Custom one-off productions: Custom builds account for the largest portion of 3D printing applications. One of the biggest driving forces behind 3D printing's invention and widespread use is the ability to create one-off, complex custom parts rapidly. Custom one-off pieces range from highly complex machinery spare parts and medical implants to personalised gift items and toys.

Batch production

Outside of custom applications, manufacturers often use 3D printing to carry out batch productions of standalone parts, components in an assembly, and fully functional assemblies.

Batch 3D printing manufacturing

Due to its versatility and numerous beneficial characteristics, printing has become indispensable in various industries, including but not limited to:

  • Transportation (Aerospace and Automotive)
  • Medicine and Healthcare
  • Machinery and equipment
  • Fashion and sports
  • Construction
  • Arts and crafts
  • Electronics
  • Consumer goods

Transportation (Automotive and Aerospace)

The automotive and aerospace industries utilise critical machinery and equipment with highly complex components. 3D printing provides a means to produce these components with high precision and accuracy. This manufacturing process is familiar to the aerospace and automotive industries. It has been vastly employed in these industries for new product prototyping and batch production of complex machine components. There are countless current real-life applications of 3D printing in these industries. A few examples are as follows:

  • Large turbine metal frames printed by General Electric
  • Local Motors’ Strati, a car almost entirely printed using ABS and carbon fibre
  • The Airbus A350 XWB by Airbus with 1000 3D printed components 

In these cases, the creators reported reduced product development cycles and production time. There was also a reduction in part mass and cost.

Strati 3D printed vehicle by Local motors

Medical and Healthcare

3D printing is significantly improving the field of custom healthcare. This process allows patients to receive precisely fitting custom medical implants and prosthetics, such as titanium bone and joint replacements, cobalt chrome teeth, and PA 12 prosthetics. Many of these items, which typically took weeks and months to develop, can now be printed in days and, sometimes, hours. One of the specific applications where these characteristics of 3D printing enhance patient life is in amputee prosthetics fitting.

3D printing also creates precise surgical instruments, realistic medical models, and other general-use medical items. Countless 3D printing studies and medical innovations involving various materials, processes, and applications are underway. 

Geomiq is a proud owner of the ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 13485:2016 certifications. These prestigious international certifications officially underline our excellence in quality, rigorous adherence to international standards, and expertise in medical device development and manufacturing. All while demonstrating exceptional customer service. Whether for one-off custom implants or batch productions, contact us or upload your designs to our platform to get started, and our team of experts will handle your project with unrivalled dedication and professionalism.

Machinery and equipment

The application of 3D printing in machinery and equipment cuts across various industries. This manufacturing process creates parts and components for machinery, equipment, and robots in production lines, agriculture, robotics, oil and gas, mining, and numerous other industries.


One of the various applications of 3D printing in the building and construction industry is in architecture. 3D printing enables architects to create precise models of structures using engineering materials that closely match those of real-life structures. This technology enables engineers to identify potential construction problems and promptly develop solutions.

3D printing principles are also being applied to produce full-scale infrastructure. In 2016, Spanish engineers “printed” a 12-metre-long bridge using concrete.

Fashion and Sports

3D printing is fast gaining ground in the worlds of fashion and sports. Many athletes rely on 3D-printed custom items such as mouthguards, handle grips, protective gear, and other sports paraphernalia. 3D printing is also applied in more commercial applications. In 2012, Nike custom 3D printed the Vapour Laser Talon shoes for American football players. Similarly, Wilson invented a commercially available airless basketball manufactured via 3D printing in 2024.

The main application of 3D printing in the fashion industry is the creation of custom fashion pieces. However, this technology is still experimental for the large-scale production of clothing.

DIY, Arts and Crafts, Hobbyists

Most personal applications of 3D printing fall under these categories. Because 3D printing is accessible and versatile, enthusiasts use this technology to create an extensive range of unique custom items. The items produced under this category are quite numerous. They include personal gifts, jewellery, toys, and household items.

What are the advantages of 3D printing manufacturing? 3D printing benefits

The widespread application of 3D printing manufacturing results from its many benefits. Some of these are as follows.

Capability: 3D printing can produce an extensive range of objects, geometries, and part features. This technology can produce highly complex geometries, standalone end-use parts, and fully functional assemblies. It can also print multicolour and multi-material parts at once. If you can design it, you can print it, provided the design is optimised for 3D printing. This gives design freedom and flexibility to innovators, manufacturers, and creators.

Accuracy and precision: 3D printing provides accurate manufacturing with certain technologies capable of printing with 0.1 mm accuracy. 

Speed: Compared to traditional manufacturing, which involves numerous time-consuming processes to create a part, 3D printing delivers single parts and assemblies significantly faster. Geomiq, for instance, can deliver 3D-printed parts to your doorstep in as little as three days from ordering. It's important to note that printing speed varies by 3D printing technology. 

Versatility: The many technologies and processes that fall under 3D printing make this broadly defined manufacturing process highly versatile. There is hardly an application without a suitable 3D printing process. There are processes for hard or soft materials, one-off or batch productions, smooth or rough surface finish, large or tiny structures, metals or plastics, single parts or whole assemblies, and many other application requirements.

Materials: 3D printing material compatibility goes beyond standard engineering materials. The different 3D printing technologies are compatible with resins, thermoplastic, metals, paper, and ceramics. They are also compatible with application-specific materials such as clay, biodegradable materials, flame-resistant materials, bio tissues, and edible materials.

Sustainability: 3D printing is a relatively sustainable manufacturing process. Unlike CNC machining, which generates scrap, 3D printing manufacturing creates parts by joining materials, using only the required material. This significantly reduces waste. However, some designs may require support structures, which constitute waste.

Accessibility and availability: 3D printing is used in highly complex technical and recreational applications alike. There are high-end large industrial printers and far more affordable desktop 3D printers that cost less than £ 200 (€ 233). This availability makes the 3D printing technology easily accessible to various users.

What are the disadvantages of 3D printing manufacturing? 3D printing limitations

While 3D printing manufacturing has numerous advantages, it also has the following limitations:

Speed in batch production: While 3D printing technology is relatively fast for single parts, the time required for batch production rises exponentially. The solution to this problem is to utilise multiple 3D printers simultaneously. However, this translates to increased manufacturing costs.

Impact on finished part properties: 3D printing technology often requires materials to be in a specific state, such as liquid, powder, or wire. The materials undergo melting or sintering before solidification in layers. The changes in material state, in addition to the layered formation of the part, may impact the physical properties of the finished item.

Post-processing: 3D printing processes typically require post-processing, including removal of support structure and excess material, surface finishing, further sintering, and heat treatment. These processes increase manufacturing time.

Scalability and Repeatability: Due to the temperature changes and post-processing that occur in 3D printing manufacturing, finished products in batch productions may have slight variations.


Whether for a one-off part or batch production, Geomiq is your expert digital manufacturing partner. We handle everything from manufacturing and quality control to delivery. Head to our instant quoting platform to upload your design, select your printing preferences, and place an order. You will receive your finished part in as little as three days. Our expert designers and engineers are also available to guide you on design, material selection, and custom solutions that precisely match your needs.

3D printing FAQs

What 3D printing technology should I use?

This depends on various factors, such as application, budget, materials, and part complexity. FDM, SLA, SLS, and other 3D printing technologies have unique features and applications. See here for more information on selecting the best 3D printing technology for your application.

Can I use a design I found online?

Yes, you can. Various sites provide free and paid 3D digital models you can print. However, it's important to be aware of copyright restrictions.

Can I own a 3D printer?

Yes, Most countries do not restrict the ownership of 3D printers. Numerous brands of commercially available, affordable 3D printers are designed for personal and recreational use.

How do I find a manufacturer for my ideas?

Geomiq offers on-demand 3D printing manufacturing. Simply upload your designs to our quoting platform, place an order, and receive your parts in as little as three days.

What 3D printing material should I use?

The 3D printing material you choose depends on your application, budget, preferences, and other factors. For more information, see our comprehensive 3D printing material selection guide.

Can I 3D print a complete assembly?

Yes. Most 3D printing technologies can print whole assemblies. However, you need to account for the tolerance and design limitations of the specific technology.

How much does 3D printing cost? 

3D printing costs vary by many factors, including printing technology (some technologies are more expensive than others), part complexity (more complex parts require more time and material), post-processing (additional steps like sanding or painting can increase the cost), and material (different materials have different costs). Our quoting platform uses machine learning technology to analyse these factors based on your preferences and provides an accurate cost estimate.

What are the restrictions on 3D printing?

There are legal restrictions on certain designs. For example, printing weapons and firearms components is strictly prohibited in most countries. There are also restrictions on the type of materials available to the public, such as certain types of metals or chemicals. Furthermore, there are copyright and IP restrictions on products and items, meaning you can't 3D print a patented product without permission from the patent holder.

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