Monday, January 13, 2014

3D printing and it's impact on manufacturing, production and our lifestyle.

3D printing is gradually changing the ways of manufacturing, production and our lifestyle. What is it? How do they do it? Why would I need it? Those are questions you are probably asking yourself right now. 

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a branch of the rapid prototyping family and is the process of turning digital files into physical products, parts and components via the use of a 3D printing device.

3D models are created via the build up of layers of a chosen material, typically and the most commonly used material is ABS plastic, however other materials can be used, such as metals and ceramics. So how long does it take to produce such products? The answer is simple, the bigger the model size- the longer the process time. So why do we need 3D printing and what benefits can it offer you?

To date, many 3D printed products have been created, from promotional gifts and household objects to furniture and even medical appliances.  3D printing is gradually making a solid and effective entrance into the design and manufacturing industry, but has a lot of further consideration and development to be done.

But the main reason why people are taking advantage of 3D printing these days is for the rapid production of prototypes for design development and visualization. Due to the quick production time,  designers can quickly transform their 3D files into 3D models at the click of a button. This can be extremely useful in terms of product testing and making sure parts/components are being produced the way they are intended on screen. It also offers the designer a greater feel and hands on experience with the product, rather than simple rotations and angle changes of a 3D file on screen.

Further advantages of 3D printing:

  • Shape and form experimentation
  • Faster communication between client and user.
  • Cheap manufacturing
  • Fast time to market.
  • Reduced travel and manufacturing development costs.

So far from this post, you would think 3D printing surely is the future of design,manufacture and production, which in the long run probably is. However, there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of considerations to take. For example, although real-sized models can be made rapidly, production time for large items can take a long time, and in the long run this may slow down development timing. Once a 3D product has been created, surface treatments such as polishing/sanding is required as the layers are visible to the naked eye, further increasing timing and costs. However the most crucial factor to consider is the initial machine costing. 3D printers are not cheap. It is an investment to consider, but once obtained, one's design options will be expanded greatly.

So how can 3D printing help us in the long run? There are many future plans for the use of 3D printing and ways in which it can be applied to user products and appliances. There are already major development plans for 3D printing to be used to create household structures and frames, architecture that would not be able to be created with the current technology we have. Intricate shaped buildings and crazy futuristic venues are just a few of the future architectural plans. But some of the most important and crucial future applications of 3D printing are printing organs and prosthetics for those who are injured and in need. This could be a fantastic leap within the healthcare industry and impact greatly in terms of rapid cures and recovery.

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