3D printing is exploding into the manufacturing scene right now. With 3D printing, the possibilities of creating things and food are limitless. Every day, engineers continually design, create, develop, and update 3D printing technologies and devices that continue to amaze the populace.
While 3D Systems and Stratasys remain major players in the 3D printing industry and served as forerunners of the earliest 3D printing technologies, other organizations such as Autodesk and Dassault Systemes have seen outstanding gains in the last 12 and 24 months.
3D Systems has seen a 155% gain in the last 12 months, and an amazing 845% in two years. Stratasys has seen a 60% increase in 2013, and 324% in the last two years. It entered into the consumer market when it bought MakerBot. Autodesk has seen a 40% gain in the last year, and 63% gain in over two years. France-based Dassault Systemes saw a 10% gain in the last year but profited closed to 55% in the last two years.
A senior consultant for a leading research firm commented on the impact of 3D printing, “The money is in manufacturing, not prototyping. The opportunity for more commercial production activity from additive manufacturing is immense.” In addition, the firm forecasts 3D printing industry output worldwide at US$3.7 billion in 2015, US$6.5 billion in 2019, and US$10.8 billion in 2021. In 2018, estimated global sale of 3D printing products and services is US$6 billion.
But is it true that contrary to the facts above, surge of popularity of 3D printing is generally propaganda. So we need to answer this question: What is 3D printing used for? Who uses them?
Along with the numerous beneficial uses of 3D printing technology, medical scientists are now developing techniques to save human lives. Surgeons are able to experiment and test on replicated body parts of a patient’s before the actual operation. In 2014, inexpensive 3D-printed prosthetic helped children in developing countries, and a patient’s body accepted a 3D-printed skull implant.
3D printing has initiated bio-printing, which will help hasten the diagnostic process and will also speed up medication and treatment. Visionaries of a chemical application produced from open source Fab at Home project hope to help those living in remote areas to be able to generate their own medicine and household disinfectants. Animals also benefited from 3D printers-a foot for a crippled duckling and a shell for a hermit crab.
In August 2011, engineers at the University of Southampton developed the world’s first 3D printed aircraft, which may revolutionize aircraft design. NASA is analysing rocket parts 3D printed and is examining the potential of the technology to construct space habitats.
The 3D printing technology has swept across other industries as well. An analogue SLR camera, bikinis, bags, rings, footwear, and eyewear have been created using 3D printers. Nike used 3D printing to model and to produce the 2012 Vapor Laser Talon shoe for American football players.
After answering the question what is 3D printing used for and knowing the significance of the uses of 3D printing that will save lives and bring convenience to humans, we now ask, how much is a 3D printer?
In 2010, 3D printers cost at about $20,000, but in 2013, prices dropped to less than $1,000, which made them available from mass consumption. Supplier kits and pre-assembled forms are priced at $2,000. The advantage of inexpensive 3D printers is not only on personal savings but also the impact of manufacturing on the environment. 3D Filament continues to drastically drop in price which seems be on the same path as ink cartridges took. ABS Filament has lost its popularity to PLA which is used primarily for the printing hobbyist.
Compared to the old way of prototyping, which is called rapid prototyping (RP), 3D printing has many advantages. The 3D printing technology has made the RP technique uncomplicated. Smaller in size than RP devices, 3D printers, however, can do all RP functions. 3D printers are suitable for office use because they take up less room and use less power. They also make smaller fragments than RP machines. Therefore, they are stress-free to manage and economical to keep. At less than $1,000, you can have a DIY 3D printer kit, while you need to dole out $50,000 for those professional RP devices.
The 3D printing technology continues to develop in innumerable ways–from the intricacy of details to the speed of the process of completing a prototype and a manufactured product. Enhancements of 3D printing and its machines should not be based though on its money-making ability but on the benefit it might be to humans. So next time you want to develop the technology further, answer this question: What is 3D printing used for? If your answer will be an advantage to humans, then go ahead and be a trailblazer!