The design and development of 3D printing technology began in the 1980s. It began to be more commonly used in the 2010s when they became a lot more economical due to the way they were manufactured and because of availability of support materials. 3D printing also helps in manufacturing highly complex artifacts even with limited resources. In fact, 3D printing has reached such a stage that it is becoming an inevitable production technology.
Additive printing helps in rapid prototyping– a technique where prototypes can be developed on-the-go at different stages of production so that the actual product can be visualized. This helps in understanding how a product is supposed to behave and how it can be modified to adapt to the requirements. Using 3D printing, there is no need to manufacture real products by wasting resources when models that can emulate them easily be created without the need for expensive materials, moulds or equipment.
Prosthetics – Around 15% of the world’s population have some sort of physical disability. Many prosthetics are not custom-built for a wearer or are not designed to last long. With 3D printing technology, prosthetics can easily be manufactured by anyone with the design and with cheaper materials.
Automotive industry – As with other industries, 3D printing is used in the automobile industry for creating scale models and to speed up the manufacturing processes of prototypes by enabling them to be built quickly and cheaply using 3D printing. These help to understand how a particular part works. 3D printing is also used to build parts for one-off or custom-built vehicles, thus reducing costs by not needing expensive moulds. With the rise of 3D machines capable of using different materials, the day is not far where vehicles are entirely printed.
Entertainment – Traditional methods of creating movie props require a lot of manpower and time. Using 3D printing, the same can be done in a matter of hours without requiring a lot of people. In fact, 3D printing can help in pulling-off convincing practical effects where CGI was the only other option. 3D printing technology can also be used to manufacture musical instruments. These devices can in fact, be created with much better precision than when manually made, thus improving the quality of the music produced.
Engineering – When it comes to building and construction, engineers can depend on 3D printing to examine scale models of structures that are to be built and to understand the different design features including how lighting works, how the weight of a structure is distributed, how a particular part can be further improved etc.
Healthcare – The healthcare industry is set to be revolutionised with the extensive use of 3D printing. Most of the medical equipment are very expensive to manufacture and moreover, their availability is limited. With 3D printing, such machines can be manufactured anywhere at a fraction of the original cost. Areas such as dentistry, surgery, prosthetics, organ development etc are set to benefit from lost-cost additive printing.
Aerospace – In the aerospace industry, 3D printing helps to build instruments with great accuracy and with lowered weights. The engineers at GE manufactured 30,000 fuel nozzles using 3D printing technology. The team which worked on this claimed that the nozzle tip’s weight was reduced by 25%. As far as aerospace is concerned, reduced weight makes a massive difference in the flight’s performance. The 3D printed nozzles also improved fuel efficiency due to its precision.
Mass customization – Several products can be produced on a large-scale without the need for manufacturing units. Through 3D printing, every product can be customized as per the requirements of the customer. Designs can even be made elsewhere and sent to the customer as an STL file who can then print it at his own expense.
Research – Researchers have been making use of 3D printing technology to study about different processes including the structures of chemical compounds, and understanding concepts from pure and applied sciences. They also use additive printing to manufacture research components.
Of course, these are only a few of the applications that 3D printing can be used in. Let’s take a look at how one can become a 3D printing artist.