Advances in performance, and the durability and range of materials used in additive manufacturing and stereolithography offerings, are enabling companies to produce highly durable prototypes and parts, while also cost-effectively churning out manufactured products in limited production runs.
New printer platforms equipped with expanded build areas, and which offer the ability to combine materials, are also opening doors to a whole new range of applications, including leveraging 3D printing to prototype things never thought possible, like entire cars.
Click on the photo below to view a wide range of 3D printers, from half-million-dollar rapid prototyping systems to $1,000 home units:
Brought into the line via its acquisition of Bits from Bytes, 3D Systems' 3DTouch is a sub-$4,000, fully-assembled 3D printer, which offers a touchscreen for ease of operation. (Source: 3D Systems)
I suppose I should have guessed that MIT's Media Lab would come up with 3D food printing and cooking. I was half-joking when I mentioned 3D Easter bunnies. I wouldn't have imagined that anyone was actually doing that sort of thing.
Now you've hit on a subject near and dear to my heart--food! As some of the others noted, 3D printers are already actually being used in food preparation and presentation. I wrote about one particular project at MIT years ago. Cornucopia is a concept design for a personal digital food factory, which stores, mixes, deposits (and even cooks) layers of of ingredients, essentially "3D printing" them into the final product.
I have already seen some 3D projects in chocolate and pastes. I believe you can order custom "prints" from a sweet shop on the west coast.
More time spent on prototyping in the form of more time spent exploring design options should help optimize those designs. And that should at least give the opportunity for better testing and quality. That's what I'm hoping, anyway.
@Droid: Starting to happen already. There are hobbyist 3D printer kits for between $1,000 and $2,000, and 3D Systems recently rolled out a more office-friendly, packaged 3D printer in the ball park of that same price point. I think we'll be seeing a lot more options in this category over the next few months/years.
The Business Advantage Group recently released its 2014 Worldwide CAD Trends Survey, announcing both a prospective increase in the cloud-based CAD industry and the anticipated incorporation of 3D printing.
Autodesk, a leader in 3D design solutions, announced earlier this month that it has completed its acquisition of Delcam, a leading supplier of CAD/CAM manufacturing software, in its efforts to expand the company’s manufacturing software capabilities.
Texas Instruments' Webench is vying to win the Golden Mousetrap Award in the Analysis & Calculation Software category, but it is up against some pretty tough competition from Mentor Graphics, COMSOL, and aPriori Inc.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.