3D printing, the process of fabricating objects from digital files, has been widely used by engineers and designers for over a decade to create prototypes. Thanks to recent advancements, 3D printers are becoming more and more commonplace in producing end products.
While the intricacy of each ranges, 3D printers essentially work by depositing and heating successive layers of powdered materials like resin, plastic or titanium until the digital rendering has been replicated in solid form.
In February, the Smithsonian began a behemoth undertaking in an effort to make its priceless artifacts available to more people and started creating a series of 3D-printed replicas, including a statue of Thomas Jefferson.
Even more remarkable, is the story of LayerWise, an innovative metal additive manufacturing company that created a titanium lower jawbone for a transplant patient via 3D printing.
Aside from revolutionizing healthcare and being used for educational purposes, 3D printers are being adopted by numerous industries and for good reason.
Assembly Not Required
Earlier this month, Solidoodle introduced its second-generation self-titled 3D printer, which comes fully assembled for just $499 and has a 6” x 6” x 6” build area. Granted it’s less sophisticated than ones used by the medical community, it still provides a variety of design advantages.
Here are a few of the benefits as explained by Z Corp, one of the leaders in the space:
- Increased Innovation–Within hours, you can print a model of anything your imagination desires. This enables you to get feedback and refine your design almost instantaneously.
- Enhanced Visual Communication–Having a realistic working model of a logo (or shoe design, etc.) compared to computer image, is not only more impactful but also more easily understood when showing to clients.
- Quicker Speed to Market–With the ability to print on demand in your office, you’re able to compress the concept-to-production cycle.
- Reduced Development Costs–3D printing doesn’t require a production line. That means you can print, identify errors and refine your design until it’s perfected without worrying about prototyping, tooling and retooling costs.
- Smaller Environmental Footprint–Since it’s an additive process and contains no prefabricated parts, it results in far less waste than subtractive methods.
- Win Business–With the ability to print a single item, you can allow focus groups and prospects to weigh in on a realistic 3D model of your product before taking it to market.
Louis Would be Proud
Perhaps the greatest benefit of 3D printing is that it favors mass customization as opposed to mass production because it has no prefab constraints. This allows you to conveniently uphold Louis Sullivan’s well-known decree—form ever follows function.
If you’re curious to see how a 3D printer works, here’s a look at the Solidoodle: