by: Anthony Garland
I’ve read many articles that describe why 3D printing is a ‘game changer’, but I have never been satisfied with them. I feel like they over emphasize one thing or leave out other significant advantages. So, I’m writing a series of posts about why 3D printing is unique and the implications.
First, what is 3D printing? 3D printing is sometimes called rapid prototyping or additive manufacturing. Technically, 3D printing is a particular type of additive manufacturing (material jetting), so I will use the term additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing refers to the process of adding material layer by layer to an object to create the whole object (this is in contrast to subtractive manufacturing where the material is removed (like cutting and drilling a piece of wood)). There are seven general categories of additive manufacturing techniques. Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies does a good job describing the different categories in the following picture.
Click on the image for a higher resolution version.
There are three main advantages of additive manufacturing.
So is additive manufacturing a 'game changer'? Absolutely! However, many barriers still need to be over come. Technical challenges still need to be solved. Our thinking about how we design objects needs to change from mass manufacturing to developing a process which allows for mass customization.
Yes, in that the benefits proposed by of additive manufacturing ten years ago are still not here. The overhype was in the speed of solving the technical issues related to additive manufacturing. The magnitude of the size of the problems was underestimated.
No, in that the benefits of additive manufacturing are realistic, but they just aren't here yet. The field of additive manufacturing is evolving rapidly, and the benefits will come eventually.
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