3D printing is a widely popular term these days, but only a few knows what this printing technique really is. Wikipedia says that 3D printing is an additive “process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital model.” It can be used to make anything, from footwear to jewelry to cars.
3D materials are often made from the bottom up. The process depends on the kind of material—metal, resin, polymer, etc.—used and printer—industrial or commercial. Industrial 3D printers are often large and expensive but are a lot faster than commercial printers. They are used for rapid prototyping and 3D printed objects. Commercial 3D printers, on the other hand, are smaller and cheaper but slower and lower in resolution.
3D printing today is no longer confided to modeling and prototyping. Jay Leno, a famous TV personality, makes use of a 3D printer to replace obsolete parts of his old cars. Similarly, Organavo, a company that focuses “on delivering breakthrough three-dimensional biology capabilities to create tissue on demand for research and surgical applications”, recently produced organic tissues from cell samples through 3D printing.
Bespoke Innovations has also been using 3D printers to create elaborate and functional prototype for artificial limbs which are completely functioning and assembled when they come out of the printer. Scott Summit, head of Bespoke Innovations, said in a Forbes article that “3D Printing was initially a solution looking for a problem. With any world changing technology, it only matters once it actually does change the world”.
3D printing has a lot of potential and opportunities for growth, but all that remains to be seen. Manufactures, scientists, designers, and everyone else just need to take one step at a time.