You cannot use a 3D printer to create any object you want. However the outburst of 3D printers has made it possible to produce things.
3D printers follow the instructions given by a computer to print a thing using the required materials like metal, ceramics or plastic. The whole procedure consists in creating an object layer by layer till it’s ready. For example, one 3D printer may spray out melted half-liquid plastic that will get solid as each new layer appears.
The instructions are in the form of CAD files (computer-aided design) which are digital sketches used for creating different things. In fact any person can create a 3D model using the necessary software, connect the computer with the 3D printer and then wait for the machine to print the required object.
3D printing history
Constructors have been using 3D printing (or additive manufacturing) for as long as 20 years. The first commercial 3D printer was originated by Charles Hull around 1986 and his company 3D systems suggested it for sale. The machine he used employed stereolithography. It employs a laser to stiffen polymer material where the laser touches.
The public were not familiar with the technology before the 2010s. The US government funding together with commercial startups stimulated the increasing popularity of the technology with the public.
The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) was created on the donation from Barack Obama’s administration of $30 million dollars as a means of helping to renew US production. NAMII serves as a covering organization for a family of universities and organizations that aim at improving 3D printing technology for quicker deployment in the field of production.
There has been a new breakout of startups which increased popularity of 3D printing technology within the “Marker” movement, whose emphasis is on DIY products. Some of those companies sell 3D printers or suggest the service much cheaper than they really are.
The Future of 3D printing
3D printing is unlikely to replace the usual ways of making products. However this technology will offer the possibility of making individual parts whenever required – something more suitable for making uncommon parts for military aircraft, rather than making millions of tins for sale at a supermarket. Boeing has already made use of 3D printers for creating thousands of elements used on both military and civil craft flying nowadays.
3D printing is also being used in medical industry for making unique objects that are too difficult to make in a usual way. American surgeons have placed a 3D printed piece of skull that replaced 75 percent of the patient’s skull. There has also been created a 3D printed ear template for a bioengineering ear with cells.
The development of 3D printing all over the world would reduce its geography for home use and business. On-line markets make it possible for buyers to upload 3D printable templates of objects and sell them all over the world. Instead of paying shipping fees sellers can just order an object to be 3D printed at the nearest 3D printing shop for the customer. These 3D printing facilities will be available not only in special places.
It’s not only businesses that will benefit from 3D-printing-on-demand. US militaries have also made use of 3D printing labs in Afghanistan. It’s a way of accelerating the pace of renewing and innovating battlefield and quickly supplying soldiers with what they need. NASA look to 3D printing to make it possible to build replacement parts or spaceships in orbit.
Many of the 3D printers don’t exceed the sizes of usual home appliances like fridges, however some of them can be as big as your house.
3D printing restrictions
Nevertheless 3D printing is not without its restrictions. The majority of the printers can create an object only of a specific material. That is what prevents 3D printers from making complex things like Apple products. Luckily some companies have started thinking of workarounds. A New Mexico company named Optomec has made a 3D printer able to print a microcircuit chip into an object.
3D printing boost may turn both positive and negative. The ability of easy sharing sketches online and printing things at home, for example, is an advantage for DIY enthusiasts.
Experts on security are worried that 3D printing provides the ways to increase digital piracy and to share knowledge that would be fatal if used in the wrong way. The Texas group Defense Distributed has extended the social boundaries developing the first ever 3D printed gun.