Imagine not having to buy stuff from outside anymore. You want a key-chain? Simply upload an image of the same and voilà! Just like that, you have your key-chain! That’s 3D Printing or Additive Manufacturing for you! The revolutionary technology of printing actual, physical 3-dimensional objects from its digital blueprint is called 3D Printing or Additive Manufacturing. Usually, the word ink comes to mind when we think about printing, however with 3D printing a variety of materials like plastic, glass, metal, polymers, human tissue, wax, sand-glue mixes and even edible food is used to create 3D objects.
A 3D object is constructed in a controlled environment by dispensing materials from print-type nozzles onto rotating platforms. As the name additive manufacturing suggests layer after layers are added or stacked until a 3D object is created. The rotation of the platform, a precise amount of material used and the actual computed design is controlled by a graphic design software. Some of the very popular and common 3D printing techniques widely used are Stereolithography (SLA), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM).
Despite the fact that the first 3D printer was unveiled in the year 1984, almost 3 decades ago, 3D printing still hasn’t gained much traction in the consumer market. However, reasons like exorbitant costs and the complexity of the machinery itself were attributed for the same. In recent years, costs of 3D printing have dropped well within the means of most businesses and consumers. Therefore, it is touted to revolutionize the basic nature of commerce and trade. End users will now be able to manufacture most of their own commodities without having to rely on external support like manufacturers or vendors.
High-end and large-scale 3D printers are capable of serving industry level manufacturers, small-scale models can be employed by businesses, while basic assembly kits are used by hobbyists and consumers. A wide range of items have already been created like figurines, prosthetics, functioning firearms, guitars, mobile-phone cases, cups, high-heeled sandals, fabric and more! Broader applications of 3D printing include industrial design, architecture, construction, automotive, aerospace, military, education, fashion, entertainment/retail, healthcare and medicine.
While we are on the important topic of health-care and medicine, low-cost 3D printing of prosthetics or even live human organs is set to take the world of medicine by storm and decrease the rate of mortality. Scientists, doctors and engineers world over are turning to 3D printing for solutions. Comprehensive research to print live skin tissue, human organs, embryonic stem cells, blood vessels, heart tissue, cartilage and bone is currently underway and will soon become a reality. 3D printed prosthetics have largely been used in rehabilitation of crippled humans and animals.
3D printing is yet to find a strong foothold in Indian markets, it is still in nascent stage. Few of the well-known 3D printers and printing service providers in India include Altem Technologies Pvt. Ltd (Indian resellers of the Stratasys Inc.), Chandigarh based LBD Makers, Bangalore-based Brahma3 and Cycloid System, and Mumbai-based Divide By Zero, SharkBots and Kcbots. According to most Indian 3D printers, “small-scale companies are buying them to verify industrial designs and not for mass production”.
However, things are looking up for 3D printing, especially in India due to declining costs and wider availability. Basic 3D printers, particularly DIY printing assembly kits seem to be the preferred choice of more and more small-scale companies and hobbyists. The reach of this technology is quite literally boundless as it continues to develop. 3D printing will undoubtedly create more and more opportunities in almost every industry.
If you don’t have the time to read our entire blog article, check out this video by Mashable to know what 3D printing is, in a nutshell.