3D printing has been around for years and has nestled its way into lots of companies' product development processes as a more effective way to produce prototype products, test functional parts, and perhaps even pump out limited-run production parts.
Yet in addition to that so-called serious product development and engineering work, there's a significant number of less serious, but equally important, efforts underway. These are pushing the limits of 3D printing toward more consumer-friendly -- even quirky, some might say -- applications. We're talking 3D-printed chocolate, 3D-printed fabric and clothes, and even 3D-printed body parts.
Click the image below to see 16 examples of some of the more creative 3D printing projects out there.
This 3D printed guitar, one of the many creations of Derek Manson, director at the one.61 product development firm, sports a body made from a polycarbonate polymer along with a central core, which is CNC-machined from wood. (Source: one.61)
It is fast becoming that mix of fun and wacky (printing chocolate, printing food, printing shoes and furniture) and highly functional (printing UAVs and small machine prototypes). I think Chuck's point about ideas percolating is also critical. People are predisposed to experimenting with this technology and putting it to different uses. Once they do, the enthusiasm is viral, spawing more and more applications and pushing the use-case envelope even further.
I have been a user of various RP technologies for over 10 years, and it can be invaluable in getting evaluation versions in your hands, even functional prototypes are now the norm given all of the material choices available. I recall a few years back a webinar with a guy who was a big proponent of the future of consumer-level RP machinery. He invisioned people having consumer versions of 3D printers at home to allow them to download 3D files directly from manufacturers so that they could build their own replacement parts for various consumer products that had failed. I think that is still a ways off, but an interesting idea, nontheless.
I have been following the posts about 3D printing and it is interesting. It only stands to reason that once the platform is designed and standardized that material scientists will get on board and find ways to meet your manufacturing needs. It's all a supply and demand curve. With 3D printers demanding more options out there and easier to attain manufacturers will get creative quickly. I have heard that marine and automotive are already considering of 3D printing some parts for low production numbers. I don't see this being ideal for any mass produced part since injection molding will still rule that field. Also keep in mind that some of the Composite material airplanes today use special made 3D printers. So if one of the most controlled transportation industries in the world is allowed to use 3D printers I don't see why other applications cannot be allowed?
I really enjoy the 3D articles especially when pictures are provided. It is amazing the different things that are created using the 3D printers. I'm glad prices are decreasing this opens some new doors for lots of small companies.
I agree, smith120. More so than any other subject we write about here at Design News, these pictures really do tell the story. Each time I click through the photos, I end up saying, "They built that with a 3D printer?"
Beth, excellent article and to think, David Deckard started it all with stereolighography.He was a graduate student in those days but launched a new technology that is now called "additive manufacturing.Several months ago I wrote a paper on that manufacturing technique for PDHonline.org.There are several processes that fall under that description.These are as follows:
Selective Laser Sintering
Fused Deposition Modeling
Laminated Object Manufacturing
Shaped Deposition Manufacturing.
All are fascinating and save countless hours when prototyping a component.Engineers always like to "kick the tires" prior to committing to a specific design and these prototyping techniques allows for just that.Again—great piece.
@ervin: All good points. There is a steady stream of boat and automotive makers already using 3D printing to produce prototype parts and in some limited run cases, production parts. It seems to be prevalent in the racing industry where you're really optimizing and many of these things are one-offs or close to it.
The automotive taillight is an interesting application. I wonder if we can foresee a day when dealerships and garages will be able to make plastic parts on site, thereby reducing inventory for the parts department.
I think that's where we are heading, Chuck. Not overnight, of course. But 3D printing has made some dramatic turns in terms of price reductions and capabilities this year and the scenario you outline is where most experts see the broadest impact. Just think back three or four years ago--most people didn't carry smart phones. Now most do. With certain technologies, the tide can turn pretty quickly and I think 3D printing has that potential.
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