A 3D printer can create a wide range of things, from a simple measuring cup to a car. The complexity of the printer and the materials it uses determines how detailed an object the printer creates can be.
Materials like nylon allow 3D printers to fabricate clothing, while hard plastics can create shapes for musical instruments, quadcopters or lawn sprinklers. Detailed toys, models and game boards, such as chess boards, can all be manufactured from a 3D printer. Simple machinery, such as a working locks, keys and coin-operated gumball machines are also possible. Complex devices, such as motors or telescopes, can be manufactured by creating the moving parts to be assembled.
The primary process that 3D printers use to create objects is called additive manufacturing, a process in which layers of material are placed down in cross sections of the whole object. One layer goes on top of another layer, repeating this process until the shape is completed. Basic models of 3D printers work mainly with thermoplastics, a type of plastic that is malleable at a high temperature point and solidifies when cooled. Expensive models can work with other materials, such as metal alloys, ceramics, plaster and cement. Software, such as OpenSCAD, Blender or Google SketchUp can be used to create models that can be produced by a 3D printer.