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Qu’est-ce que l’impression 3D ?

3D printing is a process whereby a 3D design is turned into a real object. First, software is used to slice the 3D design into layers, and then the design is printed layer by layer on a 3D printer. Because each object is built up uniquely, 3D printing is great if you want to make unique and customized items or small series of objects. In contrast, other processes, such as injection molding are much better at making thousands or millions of copies of something cheaply.

The technical term for 3D printing is Additive Manufacturing. However, the public almost exclusively uses the term 3D printing.

3D printing explained

3D Printing Technologies

Contrary to popular belief, there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to 3D printing. In general, 3D printing technologies can be split up into 2 groups: Direct and indirect 3D printing. The main difference lies in the fact that the design is made from 3D printing (direct) or 3D printing was used in the process of creating your model (indirect).

3D Printing Materials

Contrary to popular belief, there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to 3D Printing. On i.materialise for instance, we are using 10 different 3D printing technologies that result in 20 different materials. And it’s not just plastics like ABS, Polyamide (nylon), epoxy resins and photopolymers that are being used. Today you can also 3D print Multicolor, Wood and a wide variety of metals ranging from Titanium, Aluminum, Steel to Gold, Sterling Silver and much more.


Traditionally, 3D printing has been used for medical and industrial applications, such as surgical guides, concept cars, visual models for consumer electronics and prototypes. Nowadays, 3D printing is used in jewelry, fashion, footwear, art, architecture, toys and interior design amongst others.
Necklace Crystals C
Necklace Crystals C by Blueberries
Selfie Mirror Camera
Selfie Mirror Camera by Joe Doucet
Photo Adapter for iPhone 5
Photo Adapter for iPhone 5 by Opticron
Damned.MGX by Luc Merx
Interior Design
Futurecraft by adidas
Optical Eyewear
Optical Eyewear y Hoet Design Studio
Synapse Dress
Synapse Dress by Anouk Wipprecht
GO Wheelchair
GO Wheelchair by LayerLAB
KP&T IM/e Electric Race Car
KP&T IM/e Electric Race Car by InMotion
Seven Provinces
Seven Provinces by & designshop
Scale Replicas

Getting Started

1. Getting a 3D Model

A 3D model is the virtual input that a 3D printer needs to print an object. You can get your very own 3D file by downloading it, 3D scanning an object, hiring a 3D designer, or designing it with 3D modeling software.

The Best Sites to Download 3D Models for 3D Printing


The easiest and fastest way to get your first 3D model is to download it. There are many sites out there that offer tens of thousands of 3D files. The best place to start is to take a look at our list of top 10 3D model databases.

3D Scanning with Autodesk 123D Catch

3D Scanning

Rather than downloading an existing 3D model, you can also create your own. One way of doing so is by 3D scanning it. There are tons of high-end scanning devices and scanning services out there, but you might want to start with a free smartphone app like 123D Catch first.

Hire a 3D Designer

Hire a 3D Designer

Another simple solution for getting a printable 3D model is to hire a professional 3D designer. You can find a list of 3D designers, their hourly fees, and their work on our 3D modeling platform. There, you can get in touch with a professional 3D modeler, show them your sketches or ideas, and ask them to create a 3D model just for you.

3D Design Tools

3D Modeling

Last but not least you can start learning how to use 3D modeling software yourself. This option gives you the most design freedom. It means that you will learn how to draw and design on your computer in a virtual, three-dimensional space. We compiled a handy overview of popular 3D modeling programs – from free online 3D designing apps to high-end professional software.

2. Getting a High-Quality 3D Print

After you have created your 3D model you can print it in over 100 high-quality materials and finishes with our online 3D printing service. Since these materials are printed with different technologies, each material has its own unique design possibilities, limitations, and printing sizes. This is why it is important to have a look at the design guide for the material of your choice. Our file preparation checklist might also come in handy here. This way you can make sure that your design really is 3D printable.

Once your file is ready, you can simply upload it to our website and send your model to our industrial-grade 3D printers. After the upload you will instantly see the price of your 3D print in all of our 100+ materials and finishes. We will then produce a high-quality print for you and send it right to your doorstep.