In the early days of 3D printing, many people saw the technology as a gimmick and something that would never really take off. Over the past few years, 3D printing has become increasingly popular, and it’s now being used to create everything from medical implants to custom-made sunglasses. So why is 3D printing becoming so popular? What implications does it have for the future of manufacturing? Here are three reasons why 3D printing is changing the way things are made.
While the idea of 3D printing isn’t exactly new – in fact, researchers were experimenting with 3D printing technology as far back as 1984 – it’s only recently that 3D printers have become a commercially viable option. One of the reasons behind their increased popularity is their innovative process.
Rather than using traditional injection molding, 3D printers ‘print’ an object by adding thin layers of material on top of each other to create a three-dimensional figure.
This means that no tooling is required, which significantly reduces the cost. It also opens up a wider range of possibilities when it comes to the materials used in the printing process – for instance, the 3D-printed blood vessels that have been developed by researchers at UC Berkeley can be combined with human cells to create a living organ.
In the past, 3D printers have been used to create prototypes and one-off objects, which can be useful in a variety of industries. Now, 3D printing is becoming increasingly versatile and affordable – and this means that it’s also disrupting traditional manufacturing techniques like injection molding.
This has huge implications for how we make things in the future. For example, instead of making an expensive mold for a popular product, companies can use 3D printers to create customized versions of existing designs.
An industry that’s thriving
In the past, companies that produced 3D printers were relatively niche – but now, they’re becoming increasingly accessible to both big and small businesses. For instance, DyeMansion is one of the biggest when it comes to innovative 3D printing technology.
While some companies are set to benefit from this increased accessibility more than others, there’s a general consensus among industry experts that 3D printing is going to have a huge impact on manufacturing in the years ahead.
A recent survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers found that 40% of industry experts think 3D printing will disrupt their sector within five years. Given how prolific 3D printing already is today – many industries are already using this innovative technology to scale up production and reduce costs – the future looks bright for this industry.
Still more to come
So, what exactly can we expect to see in the future? According to experts, 3D printing will eventually be used for everything from clothes and food to human organs. While this is certainly an exciting time for 3D printing, there’s still a long way to go before it becomes mainstream.
One of the biggest challenges 3D printers face is deciding which materials to print with. While useful, the multitude of materials currently available doesn’t quite fit into the material used that an injection mold offers.