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.
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.