Designing, prototyping, and manufacturing new components and devices has always been a complicated process. Computer aided design software, such as those CAD software programs reviewed elsewhere on this site, have gone a long way in simplifying the process but recent 3D Printing technology is arguably doing more to shorten the prototyping and manufacturing stages. Often CAD designs describe a perfect case scenario, fits and tolerances, assembly, and part interaction in software simply can not replicate real world objects.
Technically, 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, refers to the process of creating almost any three dimensional object with various materials such as plastic, metal, or carbon fiber. For the past three decades, 3D printers were primarily used by engineers for rapid prototyping.