3D printing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. It is also known as additive manufacturing.
The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.
3D printing is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing which is cutting out / hollowing out a piece of metal or plastic with for instance a milling machine.
3D printing enables you to produce complex (functional) shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods.
From making interesting props, or any shape of mannequin, or may be making a life size replica of anything has just become so easy and accurate.
What is a 3D printer?
3D printers are a new generation of machines that can make everyday things. They're remarkable because they can produce different kinds of objects, in different materials, all from the same machine.
A 3D printer can make pretty much anything from ceramic cups to plastic toys, metal machine parts, stoneware vases, fancy chocolate cakes or even (one day soon) human body parts.
They replace traditional factory production lines with a single machine, just like home inkjet printers replaced bottles of ink, a printing press, hot metal type and a drying rack.
Top 10 Benefits of 3D Printing
One of the latest shifts in product development is the impact of 3D printing on rapid prototyping. Few basic benefits of this technology are…
1. Time-to-Market: 3D printing allows ideas to develop faster than ever. Being able to 3D print a concept the same day it was designed shrinks a development process from what might have been months to a matter of days, helping companies stay one step ahead of the competition.
2.Save Money : Prototyping injection mould tools and production runs are expensive investments. The 3D printing process allows the creation of parts and / or tools through additive manufacturing at rates much lower than traditional machining
3. Mitigate Risk: Being able to verify a design before investing in an expensive moulding tool is worth its weight in 3D printed plastic and then some. Printing a production-ready prototype builds confidence before making these large investments. It is far cheaper to 3D print a test prototype then to redesign or alter an existing mould.
4. Clear Communication: Describing the product you are going to deliver is often misinterpreted since it leaves construction up to the imagination. A conceptual picture of the product is better than the description since it is worth 1,000 words, but getting to hold the tangible product-to-be, in hand, clears all lines of communication. There is no ambiguity when holding the exact, or at least a very close representation of the product.
5. Feedback : Getting buyers response to the product before it actually goes into production is a valuable way to verify the product has market potential.
6. Get the Feel : One thing you can't get from a picture or virtual prototype on the computer screen is the way something feels in your hand. If you want to ensure the ergonomics and fit of a product or may be the proportions are just right, you must actually hold it, use it and test it. This technology can give all of this.
7. Personalize It : With standard mass-production, all parts come off the assembly line or out of the mould the same. With 3D printing, one can personalize, customize and tweak a part to uniquely fit their needs, which allows for custom fits in the medical and dental industries and helps set people apart in the fashion and jewellery world.
8. Build your Imagination : In the modern boom of digital art and design, the possibilities are not only accelerating but limitless. One can now 3D print almost anything they imagine after drawing it up virtually. In a relatively short time, an idea, concept, dream or invention can go from a simple thought to a produced part that you can hold.
9. Square Holes?… No Problem: The limitations of standard machining have constrained product design for years. With the improvements in additive manufacturing, now the possibilities are endless. Geometry that has been historically difficult or impossible to build; like holes that change direction, unrealistic overhangs, or square interior cavities, is now possible and actually simple to construct.
10. Fail Fast, Fail Cheap : Being able to test ideas quickly and discover what doesn't work accelerates discovery leading to an ideal solution. 3D printing allows a product developer to make breakthroughs at early stages that are relatively inexpensive leading to better products and less expensive dead-ends.
Is it the next big thing?
Yes, if you're a Product designer or Visual Merchandiser, Store planner, etc.. Like all new technologies, the industry hype is a few years ahead of the consumer reality. It's an emerging technology which means, like home computers or mobile phones, most people will remain sceptical about needing one until everyone has got one… and then we'll all wonder how we ever managed without them.