What is 3D Printing?3D Printing is a manufacturing process which builds real, solid objects from digital models found in computer files. 3D Printing has been around for decades in various forms, but wide-spread public accessibility has skyrocketed in recent years as prices have dropped dramatically, and the number of available technologies has blossomed.
The digital world is abuzz with news and commentary on 3D printing even as much of the world has never heard of it. There are hundreds if not thousands of sites on the Internet promoting the services and products of 3D printing and chronicling highly technical developments in the industry, but is the public at large being left out, buried in technobabble? As artists and designers are one of the fastest growing groups to benefit from 3D printing I feel it is more important than ever not to leave anyone out of this technological revolution. Fear no more. Here is a basic explanation for artists and lay persons.
|A Commercial 3D Printer|
Why 3D Printing?So, what’s so special about a machine that can 3D print an object from a drawing I made on my computer? There are several major benefits I’ll explain here:
The Impossible Is Possible
It’s More AccessibleThere are more and more companies springing up around the world offering affordable 3D printing without the need to purchase your own equipment and materials. Many of these services allow designers to upload their drawings via the Internet, right from their own homes and then receive the finished products at their doorstep just like if they had ordered an existing product from Amazon.com or any other online store. Because the equipment and labor costs of modern 3D printing are considerably less than those of other manufacturing process, like injection molding or custom sculpting by a professional sculptor, 3D printing can be cheaper making it even more accessible to a wider user base.
What Can Be 3D Printed?
Size LimitationsThere are size limitations unique to each specific 3D printer machine. The maximum size and object can be depends on the maximum envelope and overall size of the specific 3D printer. The minimum practical size depends on the material being used to 3D print the object and the manufacturer’s ability to tell the difference between small 3D printed objects and excess scrap material.
Hole and Gap Limitations
How Does 3D Printing Work?In general there are three steps to 3D printing with a third-party online manufacturer.
- First you draw your model.
- Then you upload your model to a manufacturer.
- The model undergoes automatic testing to make sure it is printable. If there are no warnings you can order your finished product in a material offered by your particular manufacturer.
Drawing Your 3D Model
Uploading Your 3D ModelUploading a 3D model to a third party manufacture is the exact same process as uploading a photo to Twitter, Facebook or Google+. Just open the manufacturer’s website and follow their instructions for uploading.
3D Printing Your Model
Where Can I find 3D Printers?There are a few ways to go about getting your own designs 3D printed.
Finding An Online 3D Printing CompanyShapeways, Inc. Here is a short list of some others. 3D Printer Hub has a nice comparison of some of them.
Buying A Personal 3D Printer
|A Desktop 3D Printer|
- Portabee 3D Printer
- Durbie Prusa Mende
- Rapidbot 3D Printer
- Leapfrog Creatr
- ShareBot 3D Printer
- Felix 3D Printer Kit
- Objet 3D Printers
- 3D Systems
Finding a Walk-In 3D Printing CompanyAt the time of this post one office retailer, Staples, has announce that it will begin experimenting with in-store 3D printing in some of its stores in certain countries. If this venture proves lucrative, more companies may follow.
The Future of 3D Printing
But don’t get too depressed. I believe 3D printing will absolutely be available to anyone who wants it via third-party in-store printing and online printing – just not in-living room printing. In fact 3D printing is available right now for anyone interested, and its loads of fun!
*Each of the 3D printed products shown in this post can be purchased on my page at Shapeways.com or viewed at deviantART.
|My Very Own 3D Printed Product|