Digital modeling and fabrication is a design and production process that combines 3-D modeling or computing-aided design (CAD) with additive and subtractive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing is also known as 3-D printing, while subtractive manufacturing may also be referred to as machining.
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The purpose of digital modeling and fabrication is to allow designers to create physical models that can be used to test the success of a design. Digital modeling and fabrication's potential uses span a variety of industries, from manufacturing to architecture to fashion.
There are several methods for turning digital models into solid objects. While 3-D printing is growing in popularity, less expensive fabrication options also exist. Laser cutters -- which are fairly low-cost -- can be used to carve thin materials, such as wood or matte board, into shapes that can then be stacked to create a 3-D object. Computer numerical control (CNC) routers work on the Cartesian coordinate system, using alphanumeric codes known as G-codes to drive machine tools that quickly cut into materials such as foam, plywood or metal.