Human creativity is truly endless and people constantly come up with new and exciting ways to express their energy. Art, architecture, technological revolution, music. The list can go on and on. Not too long ago we were excited about portable cell phones that didn’t require a whole briefcase! And today, we have 3D printers. Devices that are able to mold plastic, metal, even glass, and ceramics into the shape that you desire. Fascinating, isn’t it? So let’s take a closer look at the astonishing world of 3D printing and find out more.
The process of 3D printing is based on the so-called ‘additive manufacturing’, which is a process of building any shape by gradually adding material in thin layers until the desired shape is achieved. The 3D model can be designed using various software or downloaded off the internet. There are vast libraries, where you can find thousands of useful models if you are not quite skilled in the design department. Once you have the model, you also need slicing software which makes the model more ‘readable’ to the printer, and voila! Hook your computer to the 3D printer and you are good to go!
How 3D printing began
The idea behind this device isn’t new, but it was considered too far-fetched and unrealistic not that long ago. However, in the 1980s it became apparent, that this is not only possible but has the potential of changing the way we view manufacturing. First prototypes of 3D printers were developed in US, France, and Japan. So the first 3D printer was actually patented in 1984, giving a solid start to what will later become a huge leap in modern technology. During the past two decades, additive manufacturing (AM) became mainstream, giving a new meaning to the word ‘progress’. In only two decades it went from being a suspicious and expensive manufacturing method to a technology that affects every major part of our lives: medicine, industrial manufacturing, art, etc.
Why is 3D printing gaining more popularity?
As we mentioned before, it wasn’t apparent at first, that we are dealing with a game changer. So how did 3D printing gain so much popularity? The answer is, it has literally shrunk the gap between our minds and the ready products. For example, if you need to create an oddly-shaped auto part, you are restricted by the machine that stamps them, aren’t you? Or when you need to create an exact replica of an object, it can be a long and tricky process. Having a device that can do anything in a matter of hours, or even minutes is truly priceless. Now naturally, there are certain obstacles, that we have yet to overcome. The specific limitations due to materials, the physical size of the device, etc. But if we are able to print houses for the underprivileged, we shall stay hopeful and optimistic.
How does it affect us?
We all have the feeling sometimes, that this whole progress and ‘leaps forward’ are happening somewhere out of our immediate circle of interests. But even if we are not interested in technology, it is still interested in us. Again, two decades ago no one thought smartphones would be in every hand you see. That a person reading a paperback book (instead of an e-reader) would be called a hipster and a show-off. And most definitely no one could’ve guessed that if you needed a custom-made hanger for your shoes or some other household item, you would be able to just print it yourself! You see, technology is not ‘there’, it’s here in our lives every day. You might not have all the latest gadgets straight away, but you catch the wave nonetheless.
Today if you want a desktop 3D printer UK, US, Japan, and other countries have lots of options to offer you. You can print household items or even sculptures, you can learn how to design and how to choose the right materials. This is especially beneficial for children. They will learn about the importance of free-thinking and developing their creative potential.
What comes next?
3D printing has only started its journey and has much more to achieve. As of today, there are a number of aspects that are holding this industry back from a new leap.
● Despite the fact that material selection is growing, there is still a problem when it comes to desktop devices. They usually work with only a small selection of materials, which limits the usage of the printer. Once that complication is solved and the materials are more versatile, the whole industry will benefit greatly.
● The software used for the design still has a long way to go. Don’t get us wrong, the progress in the past few years has been incredible, but there are improvements that need to be done.
● Getting 3D printing more involved in the educational process is crucial. It helps out a few disciplines at the same time (like chemistry, geometry, computer science, and art) and gives the students a chance to try out their skills first hand.
3D printing is captivating and intriguing, combining exact science and precision with the spark of genuine creativity. No one can be sure what the future holds. We could be only a few steps away from bio printing and colonizing Mars. But what we do know, is that we have a phenomenal tool in our hands, that hold the potential to change the way we live and think.