3D printing is an innovative technology that lets you create a physical object from a digital model. Not too long ago, 3D printing seemed like something far off in a distant future. Now, 3D printers have become much more affordable and mainstream.
But, what exactly is 3D printing and how does it work? Does it serve a purpose or is it just a neat technological device? We are going to look at each of these questions.
What is it and how does it work?
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, refers to any manufacturing process which additively builds or forms 3D parts in layers from computer aided design (CAD) data. It starts with a digital file derived from CAD software.
With this software, one can create the design they wish to produce. The file must be exported into a certain file type (called a standard tessellation language file). From there the STL file is sliced into hundreds and sometimes thousands of 2D layers. A 3D printer reads these files and uses them to build on top of each other resulting in an object that is three dimensional.
Is it all hype?
It is important to note that additive manufacturing is a rapidly developing technology. As with all technology, it is changing and evolving constantly. What this means is that while the resources are there and accessible, uses are being discovered daily. While it is unlikely that 3D printing will replace traditional manufacturing, there are many advantages of utilizing this technology.
One of the main advantages is the speed at which parts can be produced. In the past, developing a prototype could take days or weeks, but with 3D printing you can have a protype created within hours.
Most designers of a product are looking at how to manufacture a part as efficiently as possible. Additive manufacturing eliminates the large number of steps used in traditional manufacturing. Consequently, this helps eliminate some cost as well.
Another advantage of using 3D printing is the allowance for complexity and freedom in designing as well as total customization of an item.
As we can see, there are many advantages of 3D printing. The opportunities are seemingly endless. We have the technology available to aid in prosthetics and other medical needs. There is quite a bit that can be accomplished with 3D printing. As the technology continues to evolve, there will be so much more that can be accomplished with this. What do you think? Is 3D printing have a place in the world to assist in growth and opportunities? Or is it just another novelty piece of tech?