Some of my colleagues went to the Chicago 3D Printing Conference recently, and brought back some key points that need to be shared about this rapidly expanding technology. So, here you are, in digest form:
Demos from the Conference
- 3D printers create objects from computer models, building them layer by layer, using dozens of different materials. Printers are priced between a few hundred to a quarter million dollars.
- Because an industry patent will expire next year, more low-cost 3D printers with more features will become available. This will mean new products can be copied, such as auto parts, jewelry and (gasp!) human tissue.
- As more 3D printers and products increase, prices will fall.
Here’s a neat way to copy a wrench:
So, you may ask, what can a 3D printer do for me?
The fastest growing market is household items, such as replacement parts for appliances, or things commonly made from ABS plastic, namely bottle openers, shower curtain rings, paper towel holders, iPad stands, iPhone cases, toys, spoons, lamps, and cups. In business, 3D printing is important, supplying models for architects, engineers and the creative arts, as well.
And, what will 3D printing do for me?
Already possible and do-able but maybe not so affordable just yet—3D printers are producing artificial limbs, bikinis, buildings, furniture, an Urbee car, guns (yikes!) and in some form, food. Look here:
But wait, not so fast. The news is not all good.
There are downsides and detours that make this phenomenon less accessible, less affordable…such as:
- There is no economy of scale, meaning the cost per piece is the same whether it is 1,000 of one object or one of 1,000 different ones. (Unlike printing 2D, where the cost per piece lowers as quantity increases)
- There is no awesome app that would make 3D mainstream and easy to use
- A simple and low-cost way to scan, then replicate an object is not yet available
- Most low-end 3D printers produce unfinished items that need to be smoothed, sanded or polished to be complete.
- Computer Aided Design (CAD) files are the source of 3D printing instructions, but are not simply Plug ‘n Play. Files need to be tweaked, tested and reworked for the proper results.
- Most traditional 3D CAD software is limited in its ability to easily create 3D printable designs such as recognizing the layer below an object’s surface, printing multiple colors, printing with multiple materials along with considering the proper orientation of the object to be printed. As a simple example, a properly 3D designed pyramid needs to identify the extent to which the inside is hollow, completely solid or somewhere in between.
Then again, every new technology has growing pains.
Need more info on this subject? Need 3D printing? Have a question or comment? Think this is all nonsense or inaccurate? Post a comment or send me an e-mail: Ray@Capitol-Copy.com
Thanks for reading.