3D Printing 101
3D printing, you’ve no doubt heard about it. It’s the fascinating new way to create unique objects and useful items. For many, this is the extent of their knowledge of 3D printing; it’s cool, new technology that you see on the news from time to time, or hear mentioned at the office water cooler every so often. There’s much more to learn about 3D printing and we’re here to give you a crash course!
What Exactly are 3D Printers?
3D printers are a new generation of printers that can make three-dimensional objects. From everyday things like kitchen utensils and smartphone cases, to more advanced things like metal machine parts and even a fully decorated wedding cake! They are able to make different objects from different materials. 3D printers represent a big leap forward in how things are manufactured and they are making a significant positive impact on people’s lives with things like prosthetic limbs and medical tools being produced more and more often.
How do 3D Printers Work?
In a nutshell, 3D printers work by breaking the design of an object into thin layers which are then fused together one on top of the other. The process starts with an ordinary design on a regular home PC being fed to a 3D printer. The 3D printer then uses that design to start building the object from the bottom up. It does this after breaking the design up into individual tiny layers that are then built one by one on top of each other. This is what allows them to incorporate even the tiniest details into the object. This process also allows the 3D printer to build moving parts such as hinges and wheels. All of this means that 3D printers can print more complex things that are regularly assembled piece by piece in a factory.
Is 3D Printing the Greatest thing since Sliced Bread?
3D printing is a fascinating new technology that is changing the way we look at manufacturing, but it is still at a disadvantage in some respects in today’s world. For one, 3D printing still cannot compete with the speed of traditional manufacturing processes, making it an undesirable option for mass production. 3D printing is also more expensive than traditional mass production, and objects printed out of synthetic fibres often need finishing on their surfaces, as they can have rough surface textures. In today’s on-the-go world, 3D printing is simply not fast and efficient enough to be taken seriously as an alternative to factory mass production. However, given time, 3D printers are set to improve and eventually be more widely accepted.
Talk to a product designer or engineer about 3D printers and they will likely get starry-eyed, but the average person is not yet excited about this emerging technology. The everyday person is more likely to start appreciating 3D printing soon enough; good things take time, and like other technological innovations before it, 3D printing is going to require time and patience on its road to world-wide recognition.