Over the last two decades 3D printing has evolved from an innovative concept to a soon-to-be staple on both small and large scales. In the years to come, as these 3D printers develop further, our homes, cars and offices may be equipped with a 3D printer. We may even be able to print our own medication. Today, there are a variety of products being created by 3D printers, such as eyeglasses and furniture.
At this point, 3D printing is used primarily for rapid prototyping. This means parts for cars, for instance, are being designed on a computer and printed by a 3D printer to serve as a prototype for the actual car parts, which are then manufactured in more traditional ways. Many experts compare the current status of 3D printing to the development of Apple computers when they were still being produced in Steve Jobs’ garage. In that context, it feels a bit like standing on the edge of an entirely new way of life.
Here is how 3D printing works: Cartridges hold a mixture of substances, often polymer, plastics and metals, rather than the ink or toner of a traditional printer. Extremely thin layers are printed on top of each other and mold together as they harden. The printhead moves upwards as the object is created. Basically, 2D slices are cut and stacked to make a 3D object. Just about any object can be designed using specialty computer software, and that design is sent to the printer. This will not only allow for more options as far as customization, but also overcomes the limitations that come with non-digitized designs.
Click here for a list of 3D printers and manufacturers – both for personal and industrial use.
Desktop 3D printers are on course to be perfected and on the market for only a few hundred dollars in the next 3 or 4 years. What does this mean? Imagine this: Homecoming is this weekend and your daughter has the perfect dress, the perfect jewelry, and even the perfect date. The only thing she is missing is the perfect pair of shoes. If you have a 3D printer, your daughter can use the internet to design every inch of the shoes she wants. You can get the material, and send the design to your printer. In hours, those one-of-a-kind shoes could be sitting on your desk.
Can’t afford to have a 3D printer in your home? No worries. As this type of self-sustaining production grows in popularity, expect to see specialty shops where you can either go to print your designed product or email your design and pick up the product at a later date. The possibilities are nearly endless.
Watch this video to get a visual concept of 3D printing technology and the interesting things that can be created: