Why 3D Printing Open Up to Infinite Possibilities

3D technology seem not only interest in display industry but also printing with 3D printing is likely to take off to the mass market in the next few years. However, unlike 3D visual which hits consumer market in the first place, 3D printing is paving its way to industrial application for mainstream products while also offering cost-effective personal manufacturing for custom creative products. In any case, 3D printing simply open up to infinite possibilities for people to create three dimensional objects. While the idea sounds less convincing at first, 3D printing which starts to get limelight since early twenty first century, seems to really pull it off to make any idea into a real product. Although 3D printing certainly open up to infinite possibilities of product manufacturing and creation including mainstream products for mass market, it is not exactly simple matter with 3D printers are still out of reach and there is still limited materials you can use for 3D printing. However, when these issued has been figured out, nothing will prevent 3D printing from becoming the next big thing in printing as well as manufacturing industry. 3D printing may not be ready to help manufacturing industry to do mass market production of mainstream products yet. But it certainly can be a great help to make prototype when and where needed. For the time being. 3D printing has seen a relatively wide applications in a variety of field including design, architecture, footwear, medical, education, and retail.

How 3D Printing Works

In case you are curious about how exactly 3D printing works to produce three-dimensional object, here are some general ideas. Essentially, 3D printing involves a process of creating three dimensional objects from computer-based digital models or also known as CAD (computer aided design), which is commonly used for design and architectural purposes. Instead of ordinary two-dimensional pictures, the design usually consists of several layers which makes up the entire object and mainly serves as guideline for printing. To ensure that the 3D printing produces "what you see is what you get" result, users have to pay careful attention to the design before getting it to print. On one side, users are granted ultimate freedom to unleash their creativity and create products with infinite possibilities in any way imaginable. But the catch is that they will have to find the right material to ensure it is printed exactly as they are meant to be, which will be explained right after this. In this case, design stage especially crucial for those intending to leverage on 3D printing to create early product prototype model or custom products such as gifts and hobby products. As for those which are looking more to mainstream, mass products can turn to broad collection of ready to use designs from some sites such as Sculpteo, Thingiverse, or Shapeways. And in case we did not mention it earlier, 3D printing means you can print three dimensional solid objects including sculptures or even human face.

Second stage of 3D printing is to get it print. Finished with the design, users will have to send the design to the printer in stereolithography or standard tessellation language file. Once done, you can proceed to choosing and inserting the materials such as paper, liquid, powder, plastic, rubber, metals and many more. Depending on the compatibility of each printer, 3D printing may or may not yield the optimal result if you happen to miss any step or material or fabrics to create the objects. The length of the 3D printing process may also vary between 3D printers depending on the materials, complexity of design to the size of objects. Users should also be aware that the finished product may have to be furnished further to get the perfect final result.

Recent Development

HP is among the first manufacturers to indicate optimism and interest toward 3D printing and infinite possibilities it offered. Tracing back to its core business, HP is doing printing for some time already and continuously develop innovations for their printing business. 3D printing offers not only provide infinite possibilities for end users but also may just be the right answer to increase HP penetration into commercial markets. After all if the 3D printing really takes off in later time, a lot of commercial applications will definitely look to leverage on this cutting-edge technology to improve their business or even produce their own goods. That said, 3D printing poses its own challenge for any interested manufacturers and consumers. Among the major ones is the material for the 3D printing itself. While 3D printing indeed offers infinite possibilities with three dimensional object creation, it may suffer from the limited material than can be used for printing. HP itself are considering glass to be the ideal material for 3D printing among others as it is more sustainable.

Other manufacturer which indicates strong commitment to bring 3D printing into mass market is MakerBot. The New York-based MakerBot offers open-source 3D printing solutions which are targeted more to DIY scenario with relatively low price tag. There is also Objet Geometris which aims at professional 3D printing market with higher-end solutions.

Various Applications

Despite the huge potential and infinite possibilities featured by 3D printing, the ultimate question here is that whether it will take off to the mass market smoothly or will it end up like 3D TV which ends up with lethargic sales because of many hindrance including lack of contents. What's more, 3D printing now is sure a luxury even for large companies to be considered as valuable investment. In any case, things are looking pretty good for 3D printing for rapid prototyping or simply demonstrates the infinite possibilities of 3D printing with dozens of three dimensional object you can actually print. In fact, some of the objects are quite unimaginable. In the first place, there is printed food. Yes, you heard it correct. As far as you think, 3D printing may produce 3D clothes, tools, bags, or anything except food. Contractor comes up with a 3D food printer idea to end the world hunger or at least it is their mission. To do this, they are proposing food synthesizer and currently are thinking to make pizza as their first experiment. Unfortunately, it obviously still take some time before we can really see any prototype of this 3D food printer. Believe it or not, recent news also reported that some engineers to produce world's first 3D printed gun. Apparently, 3D printing seriously offers infinite possibilities beyond our imagination. On the down side, there may be some challenges to the process itself as well as risk of people using it to make something dangerous like guns or even bombs.

(Date: 24 May 2013; Lidya)

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