Computerworld was able to try out the Afinia H-Series 3D Printer, which uses fused deposition modeling (FDM), an additive manufacturing process. Melted thermoplastics are extruded from a hair-thin hole in a nozzle and set down on a platform, layer by layer, building objects from the ground up.
To build an object, a computer-aided design (CAD) drawing is first sliced into layers and sent as virtual pages to a processer in the printer that controls the robotic mechanism. Even simple objects can take hours to build, but the advantage over traditional manufacturing (and food production) is it requires no tooling -- and prototype changes can be made on the fly.
Here are seven high-speed videos demonstrating the technology, including two other methods: selective laser sintering and stereolithography.