Jack Sundberg’s Exploration 1
What are the current and emerging 3D printing applications in the manufacturing field?
[CHEMISTRY] When it comes to emerging 3D-printing applications, you’d be surprised just how far the technology has come at the molecular level. Being a chemist, the ability to ‘build’ a molecule serves as the base for nearly every scientific study that I carry out, and the emergence of a molecular 3D printing device would make my work a heck of a lot easier. In fact, 3D printing is nearing this point. There are actually machines that can step by step build a series of organic molecules, and this work has already been published. Due to the machine’s setup and basic functions, many (1,2) describe it as a 3D printer.
(image of molecular 3D printer from popularmechanics.com)
[PC.ACCESSORIES] A huge attraction in PC’s is the ability to customize/build each one to fit you, but the limitation in manufacturing is that individualization is expensive — so companies simply make a standard product that satisfies the general public. 3D printing, on the other hand, is currently making personalized products affordable. For example, you can scan your ears to make custom-fit ear buds or even customize your own mouse, both of which are made through 3D printers.
(image of customizable, 3D printed mouse from 3dprint.com)
What are the advantages and limitations of 3D printing technology?
[disadvantage] Fails at effectively mass producing an identical product
[disadvantage] The size of an object is limited to that of the printer(Mass production of identical motherboards. Image from news.softpedia-static.com)
What are the larger implications of 3D printing with regard to manufacturing and the economy?
For the larger implications in manufacturing and the economy, I have already pointed out the main effects in the previous two questions. More specifically, the individualization of products (1,2) at much more affordable rate. Prior to 3D printing, customization required a lot of adjustments on an assembly line — and adjustments are quite costly on efficiency and therefore price! However, 3D printing is still unable to compete at a large scale, like standard manufacturing, but the development of faster machines and more reliable materials could soon make 3D a much bigger player in the economy (for more impacts, such as development of new businesses, follow the prior link!).
(Areas that will be affected by 3D printing economically. Figure from madameeureka.files.wordpress.com)