Printing the Future

3D printed bottle opener

Original post date 7th April 2013

What is 3D Printing ?

3D printers allow objects of any shape to be created from just a digital file.

They work in an extremely simple way, by building up a 3D object from layers of material.

Like a traditional inkjet printer, material, usually plastic, is laid down on a base.

Further layers are simply printed on top, gradually revealing a 3D object.

The technology is used in a huge range of industries from construction to aerospace.

Shoes, jewellery and even dresses have been created, with designs often sold online.

Many believe it could even lead to ‘mini factories’ for living rooms allowing consumers to print anything they want – from a bracelet to a replacement part for a broken household  appliance.

(^this excerpt is taken from the Daily mail post also linked below)

Abraham Reichental, chief executive officer of 3D Systems Inc., wears an orange glove and holds a copy of a Les Paul guitar that were both made from a 3D printer while standing for a photograph after a Bloomberg West television interview in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, April 12, 2012. Reichental discussed the company’s equipment which creates three-dimensional models. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Abraham Reichental

Due to copy right restrictions I have put a link a story at the Financial Times which is very interesting read. (written on 5th July 2012)

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/da2ccaa8-c5f5-11e1-b57e-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2Pm40PaXw

This story posted today by the Mail online shows how far 3D printed has come since the Financial Times post just under a year ago. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2304637/Surgeon-uses-3D-printing-technology-make-cancer-patient-new-face.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

I found this site while browsing for more information in, it shows a vast array of items that can be made with 3D printing and why it could well be the most evolutionary step forward in the manufacturing process since the use of robots in factories or even the production line even the assembly line introduced by Henry Ford.

At this time a 3D printer for the home costs around £1500 and printing times are relatively slow compared to a standard printer, that said a standard printer only prints 1 layer to create and image and a 3D printer printer multiple layers which make up the item of your choice

http://www.shapeways.com/

Final thoughts

After reading all the articles above and looking around the web in general on the abilities of this relatively new technology a few conclusion could be drawn.

In the foreseeable future the average Joe down the street could produce any small part or item that currently has to be manufactured in a factory and in turn this could produce more jobs all be it self employed than less. My reasoning for this is quite simple, in the last hundred years the workforce needed to produce many of the items we take for granted has been reduced by over 75% due to as mentioned above the “assembly line” and “robotics”, manufacturer’s want to make things cheaply and as efficiently as they can and by reducing labour costs they can make huge savings, this in part is done by having other companies make parts for them which are often over seas in Indonesia and China.

If people can manufacture smaller items themselves without the need for a degree in engineering and sell on sites such as eBay then the whole market place changes, with more people working for themselves money is less centralized as it is now with major corporations making huge profits and not enough jobs to go around.

Admittedly at this time in 2013 its a lot of money to spend and what could be a big gamble with a small printer costing £1500 and for time saving purposed 3D scanners costing around £4000, but 10 years from now when presumably items could be produced in minutes or even seconds compared to hours now and the cost of the hardware will be cheaper I can see this technology becoming a world re-shaper and a much needed one.

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