Imagine being able to make whatever you want simply by printing it in your home!
It sounds incredible, but it is not far from the truth. Three-dimensional printers have arrived and offer fascinating opportunities, revealing new options that once seemed possible only in Hollywood movies. In fact, they are proof that, soon enough, 3D printers will successfully meet the demands of modern users around the world.
In case you are unfamiliar, 3D printers can “print” objects made of plastic, metal, nylon, as well as hundreds of other materials. They can create funny figurines of characters from cartoons and films, but also serious architectural prototypes, weapons, aircraft parts and various devices, and even human organs.
3D printers do not only present a revolution in the printing process, but also in the world of industrial production. Initially, these printers were used only for prototyping three-dimensional objects, but 3D printing technology develops and improves with each passing day.
How do 3D printers work?
These printers create three-dimensional objects from digital files by printing layer by layer, with each layer being an accurate, thinly sliced, horizontal cross-section, until the object is completely finished. The printing process merges layers seamlessly, and that’s the great success of 3D printing.
Another term that is used for 3D printing is “additive manufacturing”, because the 3D objects are created by adding material only where there is a need for them according to the 3D design, instead of subtracting or cutting. This means that there is no excess – nothing goes to waste. Printer types mainly differ in the way in which the layers are assembled to form the desired object.
Industry and 3D Printer Application
It is expected that the value of the 3D printing industry will increase by about $20 billion in the next 5 years. If the predictions are true, 3D printers will become ubiquitous in the industrial process, changing the way we live and work.
One of the most interesting application is the constantly growing number of patients who found 3D printed implants and prosthetics immensely helpful during treatment and recovery. “Bio-printing” is based on the creation of tissues using living human cells with the help of 3D printing. Though still in the research stage, it will surely be part of the medical mainstream by the end of the decade.
In the jewelry industry, 3D printing has found its niche in the method of lost-wax casting often used to create metal castings for fine jewelry pieces. Jewelers previously had to carve wax models from solid blocks, requiring immense time and limiting the number of clients they could take on at once. Now, CAD technology combined with 3D printing allows jewelers to print waxes with increasing degrees of detail, revolutionizing the casting process and opening up limitless doors in custom design. As the technology improves, some more basic designs can even be printed directly in precious metals, removing the step of casting entirely.
What if I don’t own a 3D printer?
3D printing centers and factories are opening all around the world. They can print and deliver the 3D models to their customers at affordable rates that vary depending on the size of the printed piece and the material in which it is being printed. All it takes is to upload a sketch file of the desired object. There is also the possibility of selling your 3D designs via these centers, and thus earning money.
Development software, specialized sites and shipping of the 3D matrix models are also in their infancy. This new technology is definitely something that will be thoroughly explored and developed in the coming years.