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3D Printing: What is 3D Printing?

A guide to 3D printing at Joyner Library.

About This Page

This page provides an introduction to the basic concepts of 3D printing.

Already familiar with the basic concepts? The next step is Find/Design Digital Models.

6 Basic Stages of the 3D Printing Process

In a nutshell, 3D printing is a process for making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model. This is typically done by laying down many successive thin layers of a material, also known as additive manufacturing. So, what does this look like? Watch the timelapse video below from Adafruit Industries.

The type of 3D printing seen in the video above is called fused deposition modeling (FDM), and build objects layer by layer from the bottom up. They do this by heating plastic filament and extruding it through a small nozzle onto a build plate. FDM is arguably the most popular type of 3D printing and is most often used by hobbyists and other non-commercial enthusiasts. Commercial businesses are also known to use FDM for new product development, prototyping and even manufacturing development. This technology is considered to be simple-to-use and environmentally friendly. 

All of Joyner Library's 3D printers use this process. Here are the six basic steps to go from a digital model to 3D printing a physical object:

images of 3d printing process

3D Printing Process by Kholoudabdolqader is licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0

Follow the tabs above to learn more about each step in the process. Now you know about how FDM 3D printers work, the next step is Find/Design Digital Models.

If you want to know more... has a wonderful 3D Printing Basics: The Free Beginner's Guide which provides an overview of 3D printing. It includes a brief history of the technology, the processes and materials used, and applications.

You can also visit for another visual representation of Fused Deposition Modeling. Stratasys has also produced a video showing details of the FDM process.

Comfortable with the basic concepts? The next step is Find/Design Digital Models.

3D Printing Help


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Text Message:  Send a text to (252) 391-8428.

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Phone:  Call the TRC Service Desk at (252) 328-6076.

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Email:  Email us at

  We will answer you within 24 hours when classes are in session.


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Schedule a 3D Printing Consultation:

We are only available to consult in person at this time:

Visit the Consultation Request tab for more information.