We discuss 3D priting and it's practical application in future of lifestyle and business.

Earlier than you thought

3D printing has been a buzz on the internet since past few years, especially in the past 8-10 years. But the process surprisingly was around since 1980s! Surprised? So are we. 3D printing was invented by Chuck Hull in 1983 and he called the process Stereolithography. This was the beginning of Additive Manufacturing. All the traditional methods of manufacturing was a process of removing raw material to create the end product. Additive manufacturing on the other hand laid down the material layer by layer to create the final product.

In an additive process, the 3D model of the object is sliced down into 2D layers of material and successive layers of material are laid down until the final product is created. Much like layers of salami :wink:. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object. In this way, there was less wastage of material.

“With 3D printing, complexity is free. The printer doesn’t care if it makes the most rudimentary shape or the most complex shape, and that is completely turning design and manufacturing on its head as we know it.”
― Avi Reichental

3D printer reads CAD data of the product that you or a product designer has created and converts that 3D model into thin slices of 2D sections. The printer then lays down material layer by layer to create intricate and complex designs. Material can either be molten and laid down in layers or can be fused post laying down by molting afterwards. Depends on the type of printer being used.

3D printers have been used since long to create prototypes but since then have been used to create final products as well. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that printers have been costing less. You may get a decent printer for around $300 these days. The design capabilities range from products ranging from few millimeters across to objects that are meters across.

So what?

It’s nice that 3D printers let us do all this, but are there any real practical advantages? Oh yes there are and few of these are already out there. 3D printing is already been used in fashion, medicine and various other industries. In medicine, 3D printing offers great advantages over conventional way of manufacturing products.

3D printing has been used in creation of orgran replacement parts. With this technology it is easy to create complex and porous parts which enable body tissues to grow into these and hence reduce the chance of rejection by the body. In fashion, 3D printing has helped in design and production of clothing and footwear.

What’s the good and bad?

3D printing has some defiitive advantages over traditional manufacturing methodologies:

  • Less wastage: Since 3D printing is an additive process, there is very less wastage of building material.
  • Complex designs: Since 3D printing is an additive process, there is very less wastage of building material.
  • Customised products: Since 3D printing is an additive process, there is very less wastage of building material.
  • Faster prototyping: Since 3D printing is an additive process, there is very less wastage of building material.

But in spite of all the above stated advantages, there are certain limitations as well:

  • Material choices: Since 3D printing is an additive process, there is very less wastage of building material.
  • Strength and endurance: Since 3D printing is an additive process, there is very less wastage of building material.
  • Relatively higher cost: Since 3D printing is an additive process, there is very less wastage of building material.
  • Precision issues: Since 3D printing is an additive process, there is very less wastage of building material.

Future

One big application of 3D printing technology in the future might be in the form of e-commerce. Today, you purchase a product and wait for it to be delivered to you. Imagine a future where you place an order, download the blueprints to your computer and then print it out using your home 3D printer and that, might be the future.

This would be perfect for products that are made of one material like plastic objects.

Cody Wilson’s documentary on YouTube

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