Monday, June 10, 2013

Can A 3D Printing Service Can Change The Landscape Of Manufacturing?

Envision loafing around on the peaceful Saturday afternoon perusing for a glossy new pair of shoes; ahh yes, that perfect pair of pink pumps. You survey the one click checkout options: 1) free Prime two day shipping, or 2) immediate 3D pattern download. You decide the latter; after all, tonight is the huge bash - no time-to wait for transport. is now quite close to becoming reality thanks to 3D printing. The soon to-be comprehensive use of the ridiculous newish technology promises to usher in an age of personalized, hyper-localized micromanufacturing.

Seems awesome enough. 


In official conditions (i.e. Wikipedia), 3D printing is an "additive" manufacturing procedure for producing three dimensional solid objects from a digital model. Building something is meant by me by setting up numerous consecutive layers of a specified substance, when I say additive. 3D printing's additive procedure is the thing which differentiates it from conventional types of production, which are mainly considered "subtractive," relying on removing stuff through cutting, drilling, etc, to reach a closing procedure.

As I write this, a surprising amount of businesses in multiple business segments use elements of 3D printing technology in refinement and product style, even though the majority are not however using 3D printers to create an end product.

For anyone needing a primer, here's a rapid review of the very frequently used 3D printing techniques. I took elements of these definitions from the 3D print segment of Christopher Barnatt's excellent site, Describing the Future:

StereoLithography (SLA)

Though some sort of 3D printing has existed since the 80s, the official term was apparently coined in 1995 by two graduate students at MIT (no shocker here). The first commercial 3D printer, according to a method called stereolithography, was devised by Charles Hull in 1984. Similar to beef jerky.

Another widely used 3D printing technologies is Fused deposition modelling (FDM). Within this procedure, a substance, like the heated thermoplastic used in classic injection moulding, is ejected from a temperature controlled print head to create exceptionally precise item replications. In addition to plastic items, FDM printers have been created that can output other semiliquid substances which range from the edible (chocolate and cheese) to the unbelievable (definite-ejecting printers). Who-knows, maybe someday you can use a 3D printer to create the Empire State Building-in your back yard (assuming you have sufficient acreage).

This enables the formation of numerous powder based materials, like wax, polystyrene, nylon, glass, ceramics, stainless steel, titanium, aluminium and various metal alloys (technically, if SLS can be used-to immediately generate a metal thing, the procedure is called direct metal laser sintering, or DMLS). Similarly, MultiJet Modeling (MJM) is a variation of SLS that uses inkjet printing to spray bonding liquid onto consecutive layers of powder.


Just how does it work? 3D printing's additive manufacturing process is reliant upon virtual blueprints from cad (CAD) or animation modeling applications and "pieces" them into digital cross sections for the equipment to successively use as a guideline for printing. This procedure gives the capability to 3D printers to create almost any form or geometric feature.

Pretty great.

Before you tender your resignation and go out to set up "Joe's 3D Printing Shop," be mindful that commercial 3D printers cost thousands of dollars. 

For the recreational industrial designer in most of us, personal 3D printers are considerably more affordable. I came across a variety of models online in the $1,300-$2,500-ish range. 

An Internet project is led by the young law student known as Wiki Weapon, a group dedicated to sharing opensource blueprints for 3D printed weapons. Stratasys fast repoed its printer from Wilson, when the business discovered the job.

A befuddled Wilson saw Austin's local ATF office to ask about the legalities surrounding his fledgling on-line job. No shocker here, Wilson was questioned by the agency and put on notice they had be paying a visit to his flat to sniff around. Interestingly, the ATF recognized that Wilson had not broken any laws, acknowledging that 3D printed firearms belong to a regulatory "grey area." Wilson may be needed to obtain a permit for his plastic gun, if nothing else. Can you imagine policing that procedure?

Like many new technologies, 3D printing will probably prove a boon for a bane and some for others. I do not believe that it is going away, however, so you should get prepared to really get your own print on. Basic info on 3d printing here.