Shaurya Sinha’s Exploration 1
What are the current and emerging 3D printing applications in the manufacturing field?
What began with 3D printing using general purpose plastics to create prototypes for larger development models has now become the next big toy for any young graphic designer with a multitude of materials to play with in his palette. With improving printer technology and new printable materials, an array of new applications for 3D printing have risen in the past decade.
One such example of innovation that has been currently gaining popularity is 3D printed food. Specifically, 3D printed sugar, fondant and even chocolate based structures.
As exciting as the current 3D printing technology may seem, it is only the beginning of greater things to come. Emerging technology of additive manufacturing show revolutionary applications in combining materials to create structures that were once possible only in nature. For example, a team of scientists at Harvard University have adapted their micro-scale 3D printer to print hydrogel composite structures mimicking natural plant like structures. In doing so, they are able to incorporate the fourth dimension of time, as the printed structures respond and change their form in response to the presence of water and other such environmental stimuli.
What are the advantages and limitations of 3D printing technology?
- Additive manufacturing allows for direct digital manufacturing of 3D designs without the need for tools or molds. As a results, it also allows for a change in product design without any cost penalty in manufacturing capital.
- Printing in layers allow for production of functionally integrated designs. This also allows for high manufacturing flexibility and increased design complexity.
- The print size of a desired design is limited to the size of build space. There are also limitations on the speed of manufacturing and limited printable materials, but both these limitations have seen significant technological progress with time.
- While becoming increasing user friendly, the design softwares and printing process still requires skilled and experience labor.
Weller, C., Kleer, R., & Piller, F. T. (2015). Economic implications of 3D printing: Market structure models in light of additive manufacturing revisited. International Journal of Production Economics, 164, 43-56.
What are the larger implications of 3D printing with regard to manufacturing and the economy?
The accessibility and low cost of production associated with 3D printing implies potentially lowering barriers to market entry in the future. However, it would also require restructuring of intellectual property rights in a virtual market space. The economy would experience a shift from material to digital markets, making design blueprints the commodities of the future. More importantly, 3D printing poses a threat as an substitute for the present manufacturing industry. While some argue that it wont replace traditional manufacturing completely, it is still commonly accepted that 3D printers with bring with it a fall in manufacturing and consequently a fall in employment levels. Imagine shopping for clothes online as you see a model of you wearing a selection of personally tailored dresses you liked that you can then print as per your liking, in the process eliminating the need for the tailors, the sales men and any human interaction.