Is 3D printing important? Is it just another fad? Something that technology enthusiast’s are interested in, but everyday people won’t need, much less use? Not at all!
Engineers and designers have been using 3D printers for more than 30 years, but only recently have these versatile machines made their way into the public eye. Their seemingly overnight spike in popularity is due to an increase in accessibility, made possible by a variety of factors.
Most importantly, 3D printers have enjoyed a significant price decrease over the last several years. A handful of companies and organizations have led the charge, developing finely tuned “desktop” versions of the previously industrial-sized machines. These companies have largely made 3D printers affordable and practical for consumers – consumers who continue to find creative & valuable uses for 3D printing today, even as this emerging technology continues to evolve.
Why is 3D printing important? Simply put, it has the ability to transform consumerism. By empowering people to build their goods, unprecedented customization and a significant shift in manufacturing power is possible. The technology is here to stay, and will only become more commonplace as it continues to be refined.
Innovations in Healthcare:
The versatility of 3D printers is evident in the variety of ways they’re used today. The medical field alone has a number of uses for them. Surgeons are increasingly planning their operations by producing and reviewing 3D printed replicas of the physical problem being operated on. Using this method of preparation, surgeons can gather a better idea of what the surgery entails – reducing the likelihood of error. Printed models are also a more cost effective way for medical students to study human anatomy. Instead of requiring cadavers to learn about the body, medical schools simply print models. Prosthetic limbs are increasingly being developed by way of 3D printing – bringing the latest cutting edge technology in functional prosthetics to entire communities of people that would otherwise not be able to afford or access the care they need.
Use in Fashion & Design:
Fashion and interior designers are taking advantage of 3d printing to create remarkable products. The world of fashion, known for embracing the newest trends, has produced stylish high heels and chunky statement jewelry. Interior designers are building everything from ottomans to sets of tables and chairs. The furniture is more artistically inspired than its conventional counterparts, and it’s lighter too – one of the benefits of being printed. However, the pieces sacrifice nothing in terms of sturdiness. Because of their exacting structure, they are durable and sleek. Lamps have also found their way into the 3D printing market. Floor lamps, table lamps, ceiling lights, and wall lights have all been designed and printed.
Importance to Inventors and DIY:
Inventors and DIY (Do it Yourself) enthusiasts are also using 3D printers to transform their virtual ideas into solid objects. Printing a prototype is often more affordable than building one by hand, and certainly less costly than contracting a manufacturer to do it. Particularly with low quantities of production, inventors can rapidly design, print,and test a product. That cycle can be repeated several times less costly and more rapidly than a single item manufactured the traditional way.
Furthermore, printing from the comfort of their home enables inventors to keep their designs confidential, reducing the risk of a concept being imitated. On the other hand, individuals can choose to share their digital print models online – where like-minded people can review and improve on their designs.
In addition to printing and testing prototypes, 3D printers can also print ready to deliver products. In a world filled with mass manufacturing, customized toys are an expensive rarity; however, with a 3D printer, they’re easy to create.
3D printers have also proven their practicality for around-the-house projects. Printing custom doorstops, bookends, and corner buffers allow users to design a product specific to their need. The world of digital design has created some spectacular images and virtual objects. Until now however, they were trapped behind computer screens – destined to be viewed digitally, never held & put to use. When inspiration strikes, consumers can now design their idea with a modeling program, and print it in less than a day.
With the advent of 3D printing, artists and designers are now able to pull their creations from the virtual world and turn them into physical objects. Because of 3D printing, artists can avoid the required time and cost associated with traditional methods. In order to create unique sculptures and figurines, designers can now run test prints of various products to gauge their look and feel.
Why is 3D Printing Important to the Future?
Regardless of the specific application, 3D printers offer rapid turnaround times when it comes to taking a digital concept, and placing the physical results of that concept into a user’s hand. As the technology surrounding it improves, 3D printers will become increasingly versatile. They’ll be used for an ever growing number of tasks, in a manner similar to the last two decades of digital expansion via personal computers. Imagine a third world village printing vital medical equipment on demand. Aid workers never being without the specific supplies they need, a result of carrying portable 3D printers with them into combat zones and disaster areas. Imagine hospitals being able to print organs on demand instead of waiting for a donor. 3D printers have virtually limitless potential as the technology driving them improves.
They also offer typical consumers endless opportunity for product customization. They are capable of producing the type of customization that’s unattainable through mass manufacturing. Imagine never needing to break in a new pair of shoes again. You also won’t have to worry about selecting the shoe size that’s the closest fit – instead, you’ll be able to scan your feet and design a shoe that fits them perfectly. The importance of 3D printing extends far beyond the few uses and current implementations described here. To learn more, read our page on 3D Printing: The Third Industrial Revolution, or check out our News Page for the latest industry updates.