February 28, 2014

New technologies are launched everyday; however, there are certain technologies that have power to revolutionize the world. 3D printing is such a technology that is bound to redefine the manufacturing of homemade and customized products.

3D printing is still a naive topic. Most of the people think that it is a similar process as normal printing; however, it differs a lot. Unlike a regular printer, that creates an image on TV screen, monitor, or paper, 3 D printing produces real objects, for instance, earlier craftsmen used hand techniques and tools to mould material into a particular shape, but 3D printer easily creates a 3 dimensional structure in no time. 3D printing, which is also known as Additive layer manufacturing in industrial terminology, is a manufacturing process that uses digital model to create 3-dimentional solid objects of virtually any shape and size. The process is also called architectural modeling, rapid prototyping, and stereolighography. The technique uses layers of material to make the desired object. By using the technology, creating complex shapes and structures becomes easy. The 3D printing technology uses distributed manufacturing and prototyping and finds applications in construction, automotive, architecture, aerospace, engineering, medical, and dental industries, jewelry, fashion, food, and various other fields.

Manufacturers create a digital model with the help of a 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) program. This model is sliced into extremely thin layers. While printing, the 3D printer starts printing from the bottom of the design and layer by layer builds the desired object. Initially, the technology was available with large corporations, as it was expensive; however, with more advancement, desktop 3D printers came into being and the technology became affordable as well as accessible to even small and medium sized companies. These days the use of 3D printing ranges from designing fine jewelry to designing automotive parts. It took a lot of time and money to create prototypes in the past; however, 3D printing has eased the stress and has made it economical and less time-consuming. Now companies can produce own prototypes instead of outsourcing the work to production companies and this greatly helps them bring down their expenses.

The credit of creating first 3D printers goes to Chuck Hull who developed this wonder machine in 1984. Depending on the product to be made, different printers use different material for creating layers, such as resin, metal, plastic, polymer, gel, etc. Exact replicas of various objects can be easily created by using this emerging technology. With time, the cost of these printers has substantially decreased and the sales have increased. The technology promises to be the future of manufacturing industry. It will create endless possibilities for manufacturers and will allow them to create solid objects by simply pressing a button.