You may be finding yourself this holiday trying to explain 3D printing to your 80 year old grandmother who only knows a mouse as a critter the cat chases. To us that use the latest technology on an everyday basis it may seem like a no brainer, but the truth is that though 3D printing is not an extremely new technology it's still practically a newborn to the public and retail realms.
According to Wikipedia "3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing technology where a three dimensional object is created by laying down successive layers of material." That is a pretty solid explanation, but not really one that flows conversationally.
You can always bring out the YouTube videos that show 3D printing in action. On my own website I embedded the following video, which is from the Museum of Modern Art's YouTube channel:
But of course one other great option is to show them the video Shapeways made showing the steps involved:
At the end of this blog I encourage everyone to add on what you think is the best way to explain 3D printing to newbies.
Even though it's not completely accurate to all materials Shapeways prints; I tend to explain it the following way, though not nearly so elegantly: "In a similar way to how 2D printing onto paper puts down one thin layer of ink, 3D printing puts down multiple layers
of a material until it becomes a three dimensional object." I usually make silly hand gestures to accompany this explanation that involve air chopping in a horizontal orientation while saying "layer by layer," but that's optional.
There are many varied ways to explain what 3D printing is, and it's always nice when our hobby and / or business is understood by those close to us, you may even get some commissions out of it.