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The Roc Search Blog

Is the 3D Printer Moving the Factory into your Home?

30 June 2017

This year I visited various Engineering university open days and I was struck by the investments all faculties have made in 3D printers. It seems like the experimental phase of 3D printing is behind us. And aspiring engineers across the world are now being educated on how the concepts of 3D printing can be applied to all engineering sectors. From Nasa astronauts printing their own food to dentists using 3D printers to prepare dental prosthetics.


Three dimensional printing, or additive manufacturing, turns flat printing with ink on paper into physical printing of 3D objects before your very eyes. With 3D printers you can create prototypes, models and products out of materials like plastic and metal. They print layer upon layer of a design until the final product is formed.


The benefits of 3D printing are revolutionising many industries. It allows for the rapid prototyping of ideas for new parts or products and it can cut down costs on the creation, storage and waste of products. Here are some examples of how 3D printing is being used across various markets:


Automotive and Aerospace - In 2014, Local Motors launched the first 3D-printed car called Strati. It is the world's first electric car to heavily utilize 3D-printing during the production process.


Food industry – People may soon be able to choose from a large online database of recipes, put a cartridge with the ingredients into their 3D printer at home, and it would create the dish just for that person. The user could customise it to include extra nutrients or replace one ingredient with another.


Health careStudents at the University of Central Florida (UCF) developed a robotic arm for a six-year-old boy who was born without his right arm. They were able to 3D print and apply design iterations quickly to create the perfect arm for the boy.


Civil engineering - Architects in the Netherlands have developed the KamerMaker (Room Maker). A 3D Printer big enough to print rooms that can be stacked and connected together like LEGO bricks, forming multi-story homes. Here’s a video that introduces the “Kamermaker”.


Industrial design – Last year, Adidas released a limited-edition run of its 3D-printed trainers, which were worn by a number of athletes at the Rio Olympics. The shoes' midsole is made from a 3D-printed web-like structure. And a 3D-printed heel counter is integrated into the midsole – negating the need for glueing or stitching.


So what lies ahead for 3D printing? Printing organs, printing cars, printing houses? Fact is that when pricing comes down further, 3D printing has the potential to bring a mini factory into every home. Where you can print replacements of broken items, print personalised presents for family and friends, print extensions to your kitchen or print cutlery with your own design. Your imagination is the only limit.


It does mean that businesses will have to change the way they supply and charge for products and replacement parts. Why would I pay a hefty price to get a replacement part for my car if I can print it myself? I’m sure the Internet will soon start providing the 3D digital files for all kind of products and parts that you can download and print yourself.


Have you used 3D printing yet? Share your thoughts in the comments section.


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