Mary Unk’s Exploration 1
1-What are the current and emerging 3D printing applications in the manufacturing field?
I am really into makeup and trying different products, so I started my research with some Google searches for 3D printing makeup or cosmetics. What I found is that there have been some attempts at making this happen, but they have not been extremely successful. At this point, frankly, I’m unfortunately not even sure how 3D printing could affect this market. There have recently been a lot of really cool applications of 3D printing in fashion. For example, Katy Perry’s back up dancers wore 3D printed head pieces throughout a recent tour. Not necessarily a groundbreaking or innovative use, but still interesting.
Another (very different) interest of mine is agriculture. I found this article; it comments on the fact that farmers often need very specific or custom parts for machinery and operations. Often, when something breaks, farmers will have to wait a while to get a replacement part. Perhaps local dealers could 3D print a temporary part while they await the permanent part, so operations do not have to come to a halt. This makes me think of the show Gold Rush. I have only watched a few episodes, but I swear that in every episode I’ve seen some part break and the entire operations comes to a dead stop. Perhaps they could use a 3D printer!
2-What are the advantages and limitations of 3D printing technology?
When thinking about advantages and limitations of 3D printing technology, I can’t help but think of one aspect that seems to me to be both an advantage and a limitation. As this article notes, “3D printing simply works best in areas where customization is key — from printing hearing aids and dental implants to printing a miniature of the happy couple for their wedding cake.” However, the vast majority of mass manufacturing is of standard products. The market where additive manufacturing is most economically effective is relatively slim. However, a lot of these markets (I’m thinking hearing aids, prothesis, etc) are in need of a breakthrough, and hopefully 3D printing will be a part of that.
As I mentioned previously, one huge advantage of 3D printing is the ability to have exactly what you need in a relatively quick period of time. Even if this means printing a temporary replacement. Further, 3D printing change the ways we prototype. Past this, however, is one final limitation. One article explains that, indeed, additive manufacturing is often used to make prototypes or test parts, but there often comes with the fact that there is a small, uncontrollable level of inaccuracy due to the plastic material that is often used.
3-What are the larger implications of 3D printing with regard to manufacturing and the economy?
As with any emerging technology (i.e drones, cell phones), with new advances come disruptions in the economy and the law. It takes time to develop a consensus on the ethics of new technology. A prime example is with the possibility of 3D printing guns. I am going to refrain from any political commentary, but regardless of your opinions on guns or gun control, situations like this will inevitably continue to arise as 3D printing technology advances. With political disruption comes disruption of the economy.
Finally, to bring back a previously mentioned point, I imagine that the economic market for customized goods will be altered with this new technology. With 3D printing, there is no physical mold, no limitations on the customization of products.