3D printing has already changed the game, and the change is really just beginning. What we are approaching is an era of " If you can dream it and if you can draw it, then you can make it", which is approachng fantastic. Of course, materials are still the limiting factor, a reality that has not changed for hundreds of years. But I am convinced that in the near future somebody is going to put some of that sintered steel powder into some sort of 3D printing machine and make some nice 3D parts. OF course, until it can deliver the same surfaces and accuracies as a good machinist, we will still need machinists, and probably CNC wizards as well. A CNC wizard needs to know everything that an expert machinist knows, plus programming, but they don't need quite as steady hands. But CNC following a good 3D printer should be able to produce whatever can be designed. Quite likely not cheap enough, but certainly cheaper than before.
The problem, as always, will be finding an adequate source of unobtainium. That stuff is hard to get.
Beth, this 3-D printing world is very exciting!! I'm a older mechanical engineer and glad to see the next generation of designers freed from the time we old timers spent learning to be competent at welding, machining, layout, and assembly.
There's a whole new kind of manufacturing world about to happen. How rare it is and how lucky we are to be right at the cusp of such an industrial revolution.
In addition to the excitement, revolutionary changes give more choices. At least for a little while there will still be places for the old style "make and assemble" craftsman as well as for the new 3-D printer-designer.
I also know that some of this 3D printing is going to make it possible to make things that otherwise would not be able to be machined. I still feel the loss of hands on knowledge will just get exponentially worse.
It's kind of happening now I think. There are these CAD Engineers from school that know design so they CAD up a part and send the program out to the floor. Then the ACTUAL machinists say...I can't make this. The CAD guys have never machined a part in their life and have no idea of what they can and can't actually make. I think every designer should have some experience on the floor so they have some practicality in their designs.
cadcoke5...I could not agree more. Until you machine things and make them....you said it better than I can...but it gives you a certain knowledge of how things work that you can't and won't get from printing a part.
The CAD and engineering guys don't have the same body of knowledge as a machinest. The machinest has much better education and experience in regard to the real world.
We can't all know it all. I think this pairing of theoretical and practical knowledge is something that can't be replaced by a new machine. If it is attempted, then you end up with someone who makes designs that are much more at risk of being impractical or failing.
The big limitation that I see is in mmaterials, and the properties of those materials. Not that a creative person can't make amazing things, but the strength and other properties certainly does matter. Of course we can make models to use to make molds, but casting steel is still a big deal type of thing. Those 3D printers able to produce steel parts are beyond the range of most hobby type designers.
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