The future has arrived – that’s what could be rightfully said about 3D printing and its effect on human lives. As you’re reading this, 3D printers are creating new shapes and, consequently, shaping our future. They’ve been applied with inspiring success in aviation, education and, most importantly, healthcare. In the US alone, the value of this type of printing technology was $13.2bn in 2016, while GE has forecast it to grow to more than $30bn by 2023.
Much of that amount will be invested in manufacturing, considering how much it is already changing the production process by making it both easier and more creative. So, let’s take a closer look at what exactly is going on in this area.
You don’t have to know how 3D printing works in order to grasp its potential (though it’s quite an interesting process), and the most obvious way of acknowledging it lies in design possibilities. For a long time, designers struggled to get their ideas from paper (or computer) into real life. More often than not, the most original ideas had to be discarded due to the fact that it was impossible to construct such a shape using existing machines and technology, and ordering new parts often proved too expensive. However, designers can today boost their creativity with 3D printers.
What’s more, it also gives more space for custom-made products. Nowadays, customers can decide to order a product which is going to be made according to their own idea. For instance, you can go to disneystore.com and create your very own, completely original Star Wars robot.
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Another great trait of 3D printing would be that it’s fairly easy to compose several different prototypes, print them out and decide which one is the best for the market. It also gives you a chance to easily and swiftly replace some parts if you feel it would serve the purpose better. Needless to say, this saves not only the time, but the money that would have to be invested in making various prototypes. In this way, more research is provided at a very low price.
If 3D products are so amazing, then why not make more of them using only the printers instead of other machines? Actually, this has become reality, at least when it comes to low-volume production. There’s also the opportunity to change the products on a weekly basis if the occasion arises. No need to check for the whole operation process to change, or to order the new machines and parts. Simply input the new design and it’s good to go.
When it comes to the mass production of products and merchandise which are partially 3D printed (i.e., one part of them came out of the printer), one of the most famous examples are the famous Adidas 4D FutureCraft shoes. Their soles are entirely made by a 3D printer. One of the biggest advantages of such production lies in the fact that there is no addition material, more commonly recognized as waste. Since the whole sole is basically one piece, and not constructed with several pieces, which inevitably leads to leftovers, such production actually offers an eco-friendly alternative to other production methods.
Having taken all into consideration, one thing is for sure: 3D printing has found its way into manufacturing and it’s here to stay. As it seems, both consumers (lower price) and producers (easier manufacturing process) have a lot of reasons to be excited for the future.