3D Printing: The Game Changer

Author James Mash 27.2.2013. | 22:45
As told by Hugh Evans – 3D Printing is right up there as one of the most exciting innovations I’ve seen in the 20 years I’ve been around here. I think it’s going to change the way goods are manufactured across many industries. What we now call 3D Printing was called rapid prototyping for many years. An engineer would design an object as a CAD (computerized aided design) file, and then send that file to a machine to produce the real thing.The revolution took place when companies like 3D Systems started designing radically new materials. They came up with nanocomposites, different blends of plastics, and different blends of powdered metals. They were then able to create a part that, if you held it in your hand, you’d think it was steel. You can throw it down on the ground against cement, and it looks and acts just like steel. It’s impressive how the industry has graduated from flimsy, waxy plastics to very, very robust materials that can literally be used as a machine part, rather than just a prototype of a part.

The future is now
And so the invention of these new materials has allowed this industry to go from being bottled up in the lab to what many people call DDM—Direct Digital Manufacturing—and others call “additive manufacturing.” These new materials allow this 3D printing to be adopted by aerospace, automotive.

The promise of instant cad files
The other thing that’s accelerating the industry is the development of laser scanners. A company called FARO Technologies produces a handheld laser that you can point at an object, and the laser will create a CAD/CAM file of what you’re pointing at in real time. The data from the laser reading is imported into a CAD/CAM file, and so you can instantly create a CAD/CAM file with this laser technology. Even the labor intensity of creating a CAD file is reduced as you can create instant CAD files through this device. So now you can picture yourself walking down the street, point, click, get a CAD file, and click again, and it’s printed out an hour later. You saw a flower, you pointed and clicked, and now you’ve printed a replication of that flower, and it’s on your desk.

3D printing at home
Six years ago the cheapest machine out there was $30,000, but most were $100,000. Today you can get a capable 3D printer for around $1,299, which launched at the Consumer Electronics Show this year.

At that price, the marketplace opens up to individuals like us. It could be as soon as three years from now that people will have a 3D printer at home to make toys, napkin holders, curtain rings, and whatever is needed.

That’s why 3D printing is so interesting. It’s not just tied up in the engineering world anymore. It’s impacting a large number of industries, and becoming more relevant to consumers. I’m seeing that even high schools now have 3D printers.
I just ran into a high school teacher the other day who teaches software classes, and he was telling me, “Oh, I just bought my first 3D printer.”

It’s exciting to see this technology begin to reach its full potential. A few years ago it was a little ahead of its time, but not anymore. It’s here today

 

Read more at TRowePrice

Author James Mash 27.2.2013. | 22:45
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1 Comment

  1. Brenda March 1, 23:53

    Where are our printer choices?

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