Whether you’re slightly into tech, or you simply live and breathe everything geek, you will love 3D printing. If you’re not already aware of it, 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, will blow your mind. If you are already aware of it, then you will probably agree that it’s one of the most amazing forms of technology out there.
3D printing tech has been around for a while now but only in the last few years has it come to widespread public attention. Developed in the 80s, it was soon incorporated into a prototyping process to become what is now known as “rapid prototyping.”
Today rapid prototyping plays a vital role in manufacturing, allowing product development teams to create highly accurate prototypes in just a few hours; hence the ‘rapid.’ It is also used in many industries including; automotive, aerospace, architecture and medicine.
Recent technological advances mean that, for the first time, 3D printing is ‘affordable’ at the consumer level. Some personal 3D printers now cost around the same as a top of the range laptop. So, how does it work?
3D printers, guided by computer-aided design models, lay down tiny layers, one on top of the other. These layers gradually build up to form objects. It is that simple. And the nature of the process is such that extremely intricate objects can be created in a single printing session.
The only thing holding 3D printing back is the materials that can be used. Currently, 3D manufacturing is limited to rubbers and plastics of varying colors and hardness. Metals can also be used, but this is less widespread than plastics and rubbers, which are very popular for rapid prototyping.
Who Uses it? In short; everyone. The fact that almost any shape or object, no matter how complex, can be created on a 3D printer means that it is useful to almost every major industry.
As mentioned above the medical, aerospace, automotive and defense industries have all found uses for rapid prototyping and 3D printing tech. Some of the most impressive uses include the printing of medical implants such as an entire lower jaw, the use of a 3D printer to create a working rifle, and prosthetic limbs.
Almost every day there is a new story about how 3D printing or rapid prototyping has changed the way things are done. Why it’s Perfect for Geeks What makes 3D printing so perfect for geeks is that it allows you, for the first time, to take part in every single stage of a complex design/manufacture process.
Most 3D printers that are available to consumers come with CAD software which means you can create whatever your imagination allows using the software.
You can then use your design to create the object in your home while you wait. People who have their 3D printers have used them to create everything from computer parts to toys.
What’s geekier than using CAD software to design a 3D model then printing it on your 3D printer? Not at lot. Aside from what has already been achieved by industry and the geek appeal, the potential of personal 3D printing is huge.
It is thought that in the not so distant future, replacement parts for appliances and household items will be downloaded and printed in minutes, solving the problem without calling out an expert or ordering in a part.
This isn’t unrealistic, and it would truly revolutionize the way we live. There is even a team at the University of Glasgow working on a method using 3D printing to create personalized medication.
If this process becomes viable on a large scale, then it will change healthcare forever. One thing is for sure; advanced 3D printers are no longer restricted exclusively to rapid prototyping uses – the possibilities are endless.
3D printing is truly incredible. Its versatility means that it is appealing to most manufacturing based industries, the medical sector, and consumers. It is certainly set to become more prevalent over the next few years and will start affecting the way we live day to day.