For many, the idea of using a printer to produce a solid object made of plastics and metals seemed like a fantastical and unrealistic aspiration. Yet designers have been using just such technology for well over ten years in what is referred to as âadditiveâ manufacturing. Using software programmes to build up extremely thin layers of material into a solid object, industry workers have been able to make product prototypes at just a fraction of the cost associated with traditional processes.
The 3D printing of products presents great benefits to the manufacturing industry as it lowers both the safety risks and the cost. Since many items are designed for manufacture (including their own distribution) often by its very nature design creates a surplus. By contrast, 3D printing allows for more resourceful production â resulting in a final product that is up to 60% lighter. 3D printers can also work reliably 24 hours a day at several times the speed of human manufacturers, reducing the capital conventionally required to cover tools, staff and materials.
In a world in which people are used to having the luxury of choice, 3D printing lessens the pressure for manufacturers to hit on that single magical product that will sell in thousands and justify the financial overheads required for its production. Now, not only are smaller runs of certain items more affordable for production companies, there is also the potential for consumers to customise a product before they make their purchase. 3D printing would also allow for more creativity in the market, allowing entrepreneurs to release a small run of one particular product before stepping up to mass production.
Although still in its infancy, 3D printing contains the potential to change many aspects of contemporary life ranging from architecture to mobile phone design to dental crowns and right through to medical implants. For example, because of the âflexibilityâ of 3D printing, it is possible to envision a process by which buildings are erected using machines that deposit layers of concrete in shapes currently unfathomable within the manufacturing industry. Similarly, there is hope that the detail offered by 3D printing would offer possibility to create medical implants which when placed into the human body, would stimulate the growth of the patientâs existing bone, making it more stable than implants currently offered.
Even though there is no doubt 3D printing presents many benefits to the marketplace, it is its capacity to improve many lives on a very personal scale that makes its development so important. Whilst having a 3D printer in your home might enable the convenient production of jewellery and car parts, the facility of such a machine is in fact much greater.
Whilst NASAâs intention to adapt the process for use in space highlights the significance of this development, it is the idea that 3D printing would allow the fast and effective production of medical implants that makes it one of the most important technological advances in living memory. With the knowledge that 3D printing can be used in a medical context to produce everything from prosthetics to hearing aids, this is a technological process with the power to completely transform lives.
Information produced by Project Print Solutions â Specialists in Booklet Printing
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