In the summer 2013 issue of Business Pulse magazine (page 92), we wrote an article about the ever-popular subject of 3-D printing. For those that don’t subscribe to Business Pulse magazine (shame on you) here is the article written by our very own super tech, Mike Sullivan.
3-D Printing: What is it? What’s its impact on the future of business?
3D printing is a very exciting technology that has finally made the jump to the mainstream consumer market. From clothing to prosthetic limbs, and the prospect of 3D-printed homes, the possibilities seem endless.
3D printing happens in several stages. The first stage is laying out an idea with digital modeling. The modeling happens in a computer aided design or animation modeling software, where you’re able to create a model of the object you want to print. The final stage, without being over-technical, is when the printer molds (layer by layer) that model into the object/shape that you see on your computer. In the simplest terms, if you can design a shape or model on your computer; you can print it with a 3D printer.
3D printing has the potential to fundamentally change product design and customer feedback. For instance, you can print a dozen objects, see if there is a market for them, and print 50 more if there is, modifying the design using feedback from early users. This ability to adapt to customer and market demands will be a huge boon to investors and start-ups. Trying out new products will become less of a risk and less expensive.
There is no doubt that 3D printing has the potential to dramatically transform several industries. Just recently in the health field – medical professionals have used 3D printing to create hearing aids, custom leg braces, and even a titanium jaw. Looking to the future, NASA has tested 3D printers that will let Mars-bound astronauts print what they need as they travel.
Could 3D printing eventually change the world and even make mass manufacturing obsolete? We’ll have to wait and see.