Steven Duvall Exploration 1

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.

Answers:

  1. Ever since the first 3D printer, there have been stories about medical items being manufactured and actually used.  Some examples of this are prosthetic limbs, synthetic joints, and even heart valves.  One of the most recent innovations in the medical field and 3D printing is the ability to print ‘induced pluripotent stem’ (iPS) cells, with the use of a Bioprinter.  While this technology is relatively new, and its effect is relatively unseen at the moment, innovations like this are bound to change the field of medicine and biology  (Bio Printer Article).  One emerging trend in 3D printing is the ability to print food.  While the larger implication of this is significant, some of the 3D printed food are sweets.  Some of the foods being printed include gummies, icing, and cookies (3D Gummies Article).

    3dprinting_stem

    This is an image of a BioPrinter at work.  Unlike a typical 3D Printer, bio printers have the ability to print in materials that are able to be used in living, working cells.

  2. There are a lot of benefits to 3D printing, however, there are two that I believe are some of the most significant.  The first of these benefits is that 3D printing is an additive manufacturing (Fabricated by Lipson and Kurman).  Rather than typical manufacturing, which requires a large piece of material that the object is cut from, a 3D printed object only uses the material required by the object, thus saving large quantities of material during production.  Another benefit of 3D printing is that manufacturing complicated objects does not cost any more money than printing a simple object, and this is due to the object being printed in cross sections.  While there are several more advantages to 3D printing that are not listed, there are also several downsides to 3D printing.  The first of these disadvantages is that 3D printing can take a long time.  For an object to have a high amount of detail that may be required by the manufacturer, the printer would have to print more layers, thus taking a substantial amount of time to print.  One final disadvantage to 3D printing is the size of the objects most printers are able to print in.  Most commercial 3D printers are unable to print objects that are larger than something that could fit on a desk. While this is most likely a temporary problem, and will probably be less of an issue in the future, it is still a current obstacle of 3D printing (Pros and Cons of 3D Printing).

    additive_layering

    Shown above is a depiction of how additive manufacturing works through the use of cross sections.  These cross sections are then stacked upon one another to create a three dimensional object.

  3. Due to the fact that 3D printing is a new form of manufacturing, the manufacturing industry will change drastically, and in turn, the economy.  There is one clear change to the economy that will benefit most people, and that is the ability to produce objects that otherwise would not fit into the mainstream market.  This is a perfect example of the “Long Tail” economic model (The Long Tail by Chris Anderson).  A graph is attached below to show the main idea behind this economic model, which typically applied to digital products, but will change to incorporate material objects with the introduction of additive manufacturing.  While there are many benefits to the economy due to 3D printing, one main challenge that the economy will face are the protection of copyrights.  As people gain the ability to design their own products, the protection of previously designed products will be very difficult as the technology to replicate these objects readily becomes available (Pros and Cons of 3D Printing).

    typical-retail-graph

    This is a depiction of the typical economic market and how there is a point at which traditional retailers (supermarkets, movie stores, book stores, etc.) stop carrying niche products.  The Long Tail economic model allows these products, unable to be sold in traditional retailers, to be sold to a market that otherwise would not exist.

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This entry was posted by stevenduvall.

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