3D printing first emerged in the late 1980s when it was known as “Rapid Prototyping” technology.
Over the past 5 years, with the advancement of digital technology, 3D printers are now being used for more mainstream applications. While still used for producing prototypes, 3D printers are a more generalized technology with many and varied uses, widely known today as “Additive Manufacturing”.
Additive Manufacturing is the process of digital 3D design data being applied to build up a component, layer by layer using materials which are deposited in fine powder form. In short, this process creates a physical object from a digital design.
3D printers eliminate complex and expensive machinery. Some of their applications include;
- Prototyping – functional purpose
- Digital Manufacturing – alongside an existing way of creating parts
- Marketing – to convey ideas both internally and to customers.
The benefits of using 3D Printers include;
For Professionals (Manufacturing, engineering, architects, product design, small business)
- Accelerate design & innovation process. Bring products to market faster
- Save time and money by prototyping in-house
- Offers endless customization to everyday users
- Enhance STEM curriculum with new technology
- Implement or improve blended learning techniques
- Increase student engagement and cater to visual & kinesthetic learners
- Introduce design thinking within general education.
- Learn through creation and application.
This 3D Compact Replicator Mini is ideal for design and education environments;
Thanks to 3D technology, a digital model can be turned into a solid 3 dimensional object within hours.
Within 3D printing technology, there are various methods of creating 3D parts using different materials and mechanisms. However, all are based on the same principle: a digital model is turned into a solid three-dimensional object by adding material layer by layer. 3D printing makes it possible to create a part from scratch in a matter of hours.
Of the various 3D printing technologies, Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is the most widely used among the personal printers for the following reasons;
- Simple to use – it is very office friendly. Not messy or dirty
- Material – Safe materials
- Less expensive to produce
The below 3D Replicator Z18 by Makerbot, uses FDM technology and allows you to make extra large models. Some of the other features that make this modern 3D technology so compelling and convenient include;
- App and cloud enabled
- Includes, print, manage and share software.
- The ability to monitor printing via the onboard camera.
3D printing enables Concept to Real-time prototyping
3D printers such as this 3D Digitizer scanner, allow you to
- Quickly design and modify as you innovate
- Provide a competitive edge over other companies in your industry.
The below diagrams illustrate the benefits of the 3D printing “real-time” process vs. the traditional prototype process
The benefits and applications for 3D printing are varied and compelling. As the technology continues to grow rapidly, so does the rate of adoption, which gives cause to consider Charles Darwin words from 130 plus years ago, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”.