Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"9 ways 3D printing will disrupt the future" (SSYS; DDD)

From the 3D Printer blog:
3D printing is a fascinating form of manufacturing technology, which will without a doubt lead to a revolutionary new way of doing things. In the not-so-distant future, we will be able to drive our kids to the local Wal-Mart or Office Depot to pick up a 3D printer for a school project. We’ll print spare parts at home from downloaded files, or just design them ourselves. Many consumer goods will be printed in small production runs locally rather than mass-produced and shipped from a cheap-labor country. The fields of art, design and architecture will be barely recognizable. Yes, 3D printing will change everything, and for the better. Here’s a summary of some of the ways I see 3D printing changing the world.

The Maker Community
Currently many engineers, 3D artists and home hobbyists are looking into designing and manufacturing their own products on a small scale. Perhaps a knob on the dishwasher just broke – better create one and print it! Maybe some artists’ children want unique toys. Design one up! Some designers are very serious about developing products at more than a hobbyist level, and 3D printing can help with that too. More and more people are taking advantage of the rising availability of low cost 3D printers and 3D printing services and becoming 21st century makers. As the technology advances and companies like 3D Systems, Objet, and Stratasys get more competitive, and as garage inventors all over the world seemingly create new home 3D printers daily, prices will steadily drop while capabilities rise.

3D Printing Could Save Your Life
First off, the technology I’m going to mention here is still in development, but it is being researched and implemented as you read this. Visionaries like Anthony Atlata are working to develop miracle technologies like organ replication. If Anthony and his team can create simple organs like bladders now, what can happen in 20 years from now? This layer-by-layer manufacturing process is going to be creating miracles in our lifetimes. If you face organ failure down the road, it could be the key to your survival.
Maybe in your case, your medical situation won’t require the replacement of a failed organ, but 3D printing could truly enhance your life when your body starts to fall apart. This technology was recently used to assist in the facial reconstruction of a man in Belgium. It has also been used to give an elderly woman a jaw implant. 3D printing has helped with prosthetics and adapters for war victims as well. Perhaps you just need some dental work done, or a new hearing aid. 3D printing is already helping with this now. There are a wide variety of new medical applications being created through 3D printing. These applications are not only growing in quantity, but rising in stature.

3D Printing vs. Machining
The traditional machining industry is going to be facing some serious competition from 3D printing. A custom machined metal part can take a few weeks to construct, and in many cases is very expensive. However, with 3D printing, the same piece can currently be manufactured in a matter of hours. Designers can simply turn the machine on at closing time, let it run overnight, and ship out the product the following morning. 
Machining methods are very dependent to the geometrical designs of products. Through 3D printing, designs can implement organic shapes, hollowed centers, and innovative feats in manufacturing such as a ball within a ball and functional parts straight out of the machine! Bottom line – 3D printing will be cheaper, easier to design for, and much faster than traditional machining methods.