Chris Belfance’s Exploration 1

First, just a few questions.

  1. What are the current and emerging 3D printing applications in the manufacturing field?
  2. What are the advantages and limitations of 3D printing technology?
  3. What are the larger implications of 3D printing with regard to manufacturing and the Economy?
Currently, 3D printing is used a great deal for prototyping in many fields of manufacturing.  By doing so, the process of creation has become cheaper and, frankly, more accurate and reliable.  By allowing for cheap prototyping, it makes testing concepts easy and with the lower cost it allows for more of it.
Interestingly, we are starting to see 3D printing trend in computer building.  In fact the first fully printed laptop (shell) came into existence within the last two years.  When this trend finally takes off, we will be able to print PCs at home and print the replacement parts (assuming whats broken is one of the printable parts).  It wont stop here of course, the next step will most likely allow for printing of the actual hardware that makes the computer run.   The Telegraph talks more about how the idea was conceived and how the process works.  Below we see the developers and their 3D printed laptop.
There are too many advantages that come with 3D printing to list, so I will just stick with two.  For one, there is always convenience.  When the back of your remote control breaks, all you need to do is find the correct design, hit print and now you have a remote that wont loose its batteries again.  The second that comes too mind, is no assembly required.  Does not matter how complex your print is, you will never have to put together moving parts again.  There are also limitations.  Currently, we are limited by the materials that we can print in, but that will change in the near future.  We also are limited by the scale of the print.  Some industrial printers are very large, but even those have limitation (Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing). Below is an image of an industrial 3D printer.
3D printing is finally receiving the attention it deserves.  The impacts it will have on manufacturing will lead to a bright new future.  First and foremost, the sustainability of 3D printing exceeds anything that we have today.  There is only (approximately) a 10% margin for wasted materials, and the additive manufacturing process actually creates higher quality products (they are very durable).  The above link also provides several other manufacturing implications.  Economically speaking, 3D printing will require some adjustment.  With the ability to skip all middle men, products go from raw material to the printer and right to the consumer.
This will help the growth of many small businesses by reducing the production cost of their product.  It will do the same for large businesses of course, but there will be more adjustment needed in my opinion.  This link goes into more detail.  I cannot wait to see what 3D printing brings us next.
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This entry was posted by Chris Belfance.

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