3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), refers to processes used to create a three-dimensional object in which successive layers of material are formed under computer control to create an object. Objects can be of almost any shape or geometry and are produced using digital model data from a 3D model or another electronic data source such as an Additive Manufacturing File (AMF) file.
The futurologist Jeremy Rifkin claimed that 3D printing signals the beginning of a third industrial revolution, succeeding the production line assembly that dominated manufacturing starting in the late 19th century.
The term "3D printing" originally referred to a process that deposits a binder material onto a powder bed with inkjet printer heads layer by layer. More recently, the term is being used in popular vernacular to encompass a wider variety of additive manufacturing techniques. United States and global technical standards use the official term additive manufacturing for this broader sense. ISO/ASTM52900-15 defines seven categories of AM processes within its meaning: binder jetting, directed energy deposition, material extrusion, material jetting, powder bed fusion, sheet lamination and vat photopolymerization.