Imagine printing a new cup when your preschooler drops the good dishes or printing a valve for a damaged faucet. Imagine an everyday life not being limited by pipe sizes or designs that require distinct pieces and fitted with commercial equipment. Imagine personalizing every gift with literary quotes, lyrics, photographs, and many more. Although these scenarios aren’t a reality yet, the world is getting closer daily to it—thanks to the recent advancements in the field of 3D printing and rapid prototyping, the world won’t be limited to colour laser printers and wireless printers anymore.
3D printing involves the process of making three dimensional objects from digital files. It is achieved through the additive process, where a certain object is created by laying successive layers of material. The art of 3D printing is considered distinct from conventional machining techniques, which usually rely on the removal of material by cutting, drilling, and etc. Here are a few of the most popular 3D printing applications used in many industries today.
- Art. 3D printing lets artists create objects and pieces that are incredibly hard, time-intensive, or expensive to make with the conventional process. Many artists today are using 3D technology to make exquisitely intricate sculptural pieces.
- Action figures. Bandmates and book elves can now be brought to life using 3D printing technology. There are companies these days offering personalized replicas of popular music, gaming characters, and even a replica of yourself. FigurePrints lets you make characters from Rockband, Spore, and WarCraft.
- Surgery. The application of 3D printing in history has opened the way for precision and quality in complex operations. For instance, if a surgeon needs to get a tumour from the body, he can now practice on a replicated tumour before performing the actual surgery. This enables the surgeon to practice and master the procedure, increases his chances for success, and minimizes complications.
- Jewellery. The jewellery making industry is one of the first to employ 3D printing technologies. But instead of using metal printers, they are actually using wax in a process called investment casting. This is a type of procedure where a piece of jewellery is printed or sculpted out of wax. Plaster is slow poured on both sides and molten metal is added to the wax, which leaves metal versions of the wax sculpt. The piece is then polished and finished by a jeweller. There are many companies and independent jewellers these days that use these high tech 3D printers and web design tools to create an inventory made available for the masses.
- Prototypes. Product development prototyping is presently the biggest use of 3D printing technology today. Aside from wireless printers, 3D printers are now being used by engineers and designers to test out their ideas inexpensively before even committing to a costly manufacturing process.
- Components manufacturing. 3D printing technology is slowly replacing traditional manufacturing, especially when it comes to prosthesis. A lot of companies are now using 3D printing in creating knee replacement implants and even engine parts.
While additive printing still requires handwork these days, it is rapidly becoming cheaper, faster, and more automated—this opens up technology to new customers. While it is possible to make just absolutely anything with 3D printing, it still works best for low volume customized manufacturing runs, according to experts.
Do you have any uses for 3D printing in your professional/personal life? Please let us know in the comments below.
This article has been brought to you by Dell printers (http://www.dell.co.uk/printers).