3-D printing is changing the world of manufacturing.
The relatively new technology takes a digital file and makes a physical object from it. Each object created is comprised of layers, and each layer is printed out by the printer one at a time like layering sheets of paper. The printer will set one layer of melted material then another layer of melted material on top, ultimately fusing together the layers to create a physical object.
3-D printing is currently revolutionizing who can create and who can invent. By making the manufacturing process very easy, it allows inventors to create physical products from home which can lead to getting on the market.
This technology is already being used in the medical field to produce things like replacement knees or hips. Its also used to create architectural models, prototypes of new inventions, replacement parts for appliances and even household items like plates and utensils. The potential of 3-D printing could change the current manufacturing paradigm we live in.
“I think eventually 3-D printers will have the ability to produce something like a house. There’s a couple projects already out there in terms of printing houses. There’s one in the Netherlands and a couple others across Europe. There’s already test cases out there that show its possible, it just comes down to whether or not its more enjoyable or cost efficient then a conventional house.” said Jordan Bowden, Founder of 3-D Co Custom 3-D Printing.
When it comes to materials used it depends on the printer. Household printers are capable of creating objects from simple plastics, while high-end printers -which use different technologies- are able to print stronger materials like titanium, aluminum or steel.
“In terms of making stronger items like cars, its definitely possible. Right now auto-manufacturers already use 3-D printers to create prototypes for cars. Maybe in the future your local mechanic will have a 3-D printer to produce replacement parts that are hard to find. That part on the 1976 car that you cant find anywhere, its possible they could produce it on site without the necessity of ordering it from somewhere across the world.” said Bowden.
Right now 3-D printing is time consuming while one small item could take hundreds or thousands of layers of material.
“A conventional small object will take you at least one or two hours while a larger object in detail could take 24 hours or more to print out.” Bowden added.
There are a wide variety of 3-D printers available ranging from high-end printers that can cost over $500,000 to household printers which you can buy at a local store.