The Amazing Possibilities of 3D Printing Technology

Much More Than Just a Plaything: The Amazing Possibilities of 3D Printing Technology

Remember when everyone thought that 3D printing was just a toy?

If you’ve ever been intrigued by it, and how it works, here’s what professional engineers, and the home hobbyist can teach you about this amazing technology.


What Is It?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about 3D printing. To many, it’s still little more than a toy though. To others, however, it’s a prototyping device that’s excellent for giving people a hands-on feel for how a real product might work. And, for even fewer, it’s a way to produce an actual finished product.

For example, this 3D printed tooth breakthrough was made entirely from resin and special antimicrobial salt, with a 3D printer.


The Motivation For The Technology

For years, many scientists have wanted the equivalent of the Star Trek’s replicator device. They wanted the ability to create pretty much anything on-demand. 3D printing is a device which aims to become that replicator. The 3D printer was initially invented in the 1980s with the intent being to eventually create a robust machine that would eventually be capable of putting large scale print and manufacturing jobs in the hands of the individual.

But, it’s not just scientists who want this. Many different industries want this because they see substantial benefits once the tech is perfected.

“Additive Manufacturing” or “AM” is another name given to 3D printing. And, it’s used heavily in prototyping because it can be done quickly, inexpensively, and reliably. If you can program a computer, or work with any of the more modern applications for 3D printers, you can prototype your own product.

There is also some usefulness in producing machine parts because the layering of materials to make a product is faster and most cost effective than subtractive manufacturing, where a solid block of material is used and stripped down to the final product.

According to Tim Simpson, professor of mechanical engineering at Penn State, "In the coming year, we are going to see 3D metal parts being flight-tested in real applications, not just trivial parts -- e.g., brackets, hinges, flanges -- attached to noncritical components.

“It'll be done in the aerospace industry, which will then cause everyone else to fully commit to additive manufacturing. No one wants to be the first, but once someone else has done it, then no one wants to be last!

"Meanwhile, companies that don't get into the game will start to lose employees to those that are readily using AM, which will create a further divide between companies that want to do AM and those that can do AM.

"Buying a machine is the easier part; learning how to run it well is challenging."


The Future of 3D Printing

You should expect to see a dramatic rise in 3D printing in the manufacturing sector in the coming years. It will start with existing products, but will then move into new products.

The main benefits with 3D printing are in the cost and speed with which products can be produced. The use of 3D printing also allows professionals from multiple different industries to contribute directly to ideas that they have. Normally, all that’s needed is a computer capable of running the 3D printer app and a printer, of course.


New 3D Printing Methods

Many industries that use 3D printing in any meaningful way include dental, medical, and some limited applications of the aerospace industry. Some companies and individuals use it to design and customize collectibles.

Ease of customization is the way going forward, with applications getting easier to use, printers becoming more user friendly, and raw source material becoming cheaper and easier to find and purchase.


Industries Transitioning To 3D Printing

The 3D printing industry is expected to grow from $3 billion to about $13 billion by 2018, according to some experts. By 2020, the revenue is expected to top $21 billion.

Its impact won't be entirely benign either, since it will interrupt well-established companies like shipping and manufacturing. Companies that have traditionally made their money by supplying companies with a way to transport goods to the customer may see a decline in the demand for their services.

Stores, like Staples, FedEx, and UPS are already changing their business model to anticipate the effect on their respective businesses.

Danielle Atkins is a geek at heart who recently treated herself to a 3D Printer. She is in love with the possibilities of this technology! When she can drag herself away, she enjoys writing articles too! Writing on parenting, finance and other topics which take her fancy.

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