7 In­ter­est­ing Facts on 3D Printing

The tech­nol­ogy is tak­ing over man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tors around the globe by storm. But sur­pris­ingly enough, a large num­ber of peo­ple are still obliv­i­ous to 3D printing, and un­aware of the pres­ence it has in their day to day lives

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Out of all the fu­tur­is­tic tech­nolo­gies that have caught the masses’ imag­i­na­tion, 3D printing per­haps takes the top spot as the most pop­u­lar (re­mem­ber Repli­ca­tor from Star Wars? Or Tom Cruise’s face masks in Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble se­ries?), along with time travel and tele­por­ta­tion. One ma­jor dif­fer­ence though, un­like time travel or tele­por­ta­tion, 3D printing is real and is hap­pen­ing right now! Let’s de­mys­tify 3D printing for you. Do you know that al­most ev­ery hear­ing aid that you see is 3D printed? Or that most cars that launched in the mar­ket are first pro­to­typed us­ing 3D printing? We’ve got you cov­ered. Here are 7 in­ter­est­ing trivia on 3D printing that you can im­press your friends with the next time you dis­cuss tech­nol­ogy: # 1: VIR­TU­ALLY ANY­THING CAN BE 3D PRINTED

You read that right, any­thing. From jew­ellery to car en­gines to en­tire houses to even ed­i­bles like pizza and pasta, you name it and it can be 3D printed. As an ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­nol­ogy, 3D printing is only lim­ited by a man’s imag­i­na­tion. And science backs that claim with sound logic.You see, 3D printing as a process works by tak­ing dig­i­tal de­signs as in­put and then con­vert­ing them into phys­i­cal ob­jects.Thanks to this, arte­facts like

‘ball in­side a ball in­side a ball’ that were deemed nigh im­pos­si­ble to make un­der tra­di­tional man­u­fac­tur­ing process, are now be­ing 3D printed with rel­a­tive ease. The­o­ret­i­cally, any­thing that can be cre­ated in the dig­i­tal space with the aid of the hu­man mind, can be trans­lated to 3 solid di­men­sions by a 3D printer large enough to ac­com­mo­date it. One can al­most imag­ine Archimedes say­ing, “Give me a 3D printer large enough and a dig­i­tal de­sign and I will print the world.” A com­mon mis­con­cep­tion with re­gards to this tech­nol­ogy is that one can only print in plas­tic. The truth, how­ever, can­not be farther away from the point. The list of 3D printable ma­te­rial is long, with ma­te­ri­als like ce­ramic, wood, pa­per, metal, glass and even liv­ing tis­sue prov­ing their met­tle at cre­at­ing 3D printed ob­jects. One com­pany by the name of Plan­e­tary Re­sources went so far as to 3D print a model space­ship out of ma­te­rial mined from an as­ter­oid! Now that’s un­earthly.

# 2: 3D PRINTING IS OLDER THAN IN­TER­NET

Sir Tim Bern­ers Lee in­vented the World Wide Web in 1989 as a means to share and in­ter­link in­for­ma­tion in the dig­i­tal space, open­ing the flood­gates to an en­tire era of tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances and dig­i­ti­za­tion of real world pro­cesses, with the in­ter­net as its back­bone. But not many know that the ground­work for modern 3D prin­ters were first laid by Chuck Hull of 3D Sys­tems in 1986, years be­fore Bern­ers Lee wrote his first ever WWW pro­gram.In fact, the roots of 3D printing go even farther back to 1981, when Hideo Ko­dama of Nagoya Mu­nic­i­pal In­dus­trial Re­search In­sti­tute pro­posed the first 3D printing sys­tem in a re­search pa­per. But it was Chuck Hull who first suc­cess­fully demon­strated a work­ing Rapid Pro­to­typ­ing sys­tem that cre­ated phys­i­cal ob­jects in 3 di­men­sions based on dig­i­tal de­sign. He called his ma­chine Stere­olithog­ra­phy Ap­pa­ra­tus, the first ever ma­chine to em­ploy SLA tech­nol­ogy, a com­mon place in 3D prin­ters to­day. While it’s hard to imag­ine a life with­out the in­ter­net to­day, 3D prin­ters are yet to per­me­ate the consumer space at a global scale. But they are al­ready find­ing in­nu­mer­able in­dus­trial ap­pli­ca­tions. Termed as ‘in­dus­try’s best kept se­cret’, they are de­ployed ev­ery­where from au­to­mo­tive to aero­space in­dus­tries and even for the med­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tions. Ex­perts sug­gest that the time is not far when ev­ery house­hold will sport a 3D printer that will pro­duce ob­jects of day to day use, on de­mand.

# 3: 90% OF JEW­ELLERY IN THE WORLD IS MADE US­ING 3D PRINTING

Like hear­ing aids, Jew­ellery was one of the first in­dus­tries in the world to re­al­ize the po­ten­tial of 3D printing, and in­cor­po­rate it into ex­ist­ing busi­ness pro­cesses. Un­der tra­di­tional meth­ods, jew­ellery is pro­duced by first crav­ing the de­sired shapes and pat­terns by hand in wax, and then cast­ing these molds in pre­cious metal. With the ad­vent of 3D printing, the in­dus­try rec­og­nized the ease with which these wax molds could be cre­ated by 3D prin­ters, at a speed much faster than pos­si­ble by bare hands. More­over, 3D printing also let jew­ellers to pro­duce in­tri­cate and com­plex de­signs, en­abling a level of de­sign free­dom never seen be­fore in the in­dus­try. Need­less to say, 3D printing tech­nol­ogy swiftly be­came a busi­ness norm in the jew­ellery sec­tor, with top play­ers around the globe adopt­ing the tech­nol­ogy to stay com­pet­i­tive and mul­ti­ply profits. Ad­vance­ments in the field has also made it pos­si­ble to print di­rectly in pre­cious metal like gold and sil­ver. DMLS (Di­rect Metal Laser Sin­ter­ing) is one such tech­nol­ogy patented by Rapid Prod­uct In­no­va­tions in part­ner­ship with EOS that spe­cial­izes in di­rect metal printing for jew­ellery in­dus­try, re­duc­ing time-to-mar­ket of jew­ellery prod­ucts ex­po­nen­tially.

# 4: 3D PRIN­TERS ARE ABOUT TO GET RE­ALLY FAST Even with 30 years worth of re­search and devel­op­ment of

3D prin­ters, the tech­nol­ogy is deemed as ‘slow’ and un­fit for mass pro­duc­tion. But the sce­nario is rapidly chang­ing, with com­pa­nies like Car­bon 3D and HP an­nounc­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary new pro­cesses that are ex­po­nen­tially faster than con­tem­po­rary 3D printing tech­nolo­gies. CLIP, or Con­tin­u­ous Liq­uid In­ter­face Pro­duc­tion, is one such tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped by Car­bon 3D that ad­dresses many of the short­com­ings as­so­ci­ated with 3D printing, in­clud­ing speed and sur­face fin­ish. Car­bon claims that CLIP is a rev­o­lu­tion in 3D printing, be­ing up to 100 times faster than tra­di­tional SLS and SLA pro­cesses, and will help in ac­cel­er­at­ing adop­tion and mak­ing mass pro­duc­tion pos­si­ble with 3D printing. In­fact, global footwear gi­ant Adi­das has al­ready an­nounced a part­ner­ship with Car­bon 3D to mass pro­duce 100,000 pieces of its Fu­tureCraft 4D range of 3D printed mid soles by 2018!

# 5: 3D PRINTING WILL BUILD HOUSES IN SPACE

Space or­ga­ni­za­tions like NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX have com­mit­ted to send­ing hu­mans to col­o­nize the red planet any­time within the next 10 to 40 years, and they plan to set up ex­tra ter­res­trial habi­tats for liv­ing us­ing 3D printing! 3D printing ro­bots are much bet­ter suited at con­struct­ing in outer space en­vi­ron­ments than hu­mans, and are much bet­ter at it too. NASA re­cently hosted a de­sign com­pe­ti­tion for build­ing houses on Mars and the win­ner of phase 1 was ICE HOUSE which used 3D printing and ice to cre­ate a igloo-like struc­ture. NASA’s Con­tour Craft­ing Tech­nol­ogy Will Build Houses Ex­trater­res­tially. 3D printing finds sev­eral more ap­pli­ca­tions in the space in­dus­try. NASA suc­cess­fully tested 3D printing in the zero grav­ity of space, printing a ratchet wrench on the ISS by trans­mit­ting the de­sign file to the as­tro­nauts. This show­cases the po­ten­tial re­duc­tion in trans­porta­tion costs of equip­ment into space, and lays the ground­work for lo­gis­tics that will pan out in col­o­niz­ing other plan­ets.

# 6: 3D PRINTING IS THE FU­TURE OF RE­TAIL

Ow­ing to the ris­ing popularity and sales of desk­top 3D prin­ters, a lot of open source de­sign li­braries have sprung up all over the in­ter­net where one can sim­ply down­load a CAD file and print it for per­sonal use. Sites like Thin­gi­verse and GrabCAD of­fer free de­signs for any­thing from toys to pop cul­ture mem­o­ra­bilia to util­ity items like smart­phone cov­ers that one can sim­ple down­load and print at con­ve­nience. These files can also be tweaked and cus­tom­ized on de­mand, and open up a world of av­enues for what’s pos­si­ble in to­day’s date with desk­top prin­ters. Mak­ers and tin­ker­ers are also en­cour­aged to con­trib­ute their de­signs to fur­ther build such li­braries. Years from now, con­sumers, ob­jects like cof­fee mugs, dishes, jew­ellery, decor fur­ni­ture and pos­si­bly even food and de­signer cloth­ing will be printed right within the con­fines of home, thanks to a grow­ing sup­port for a va­ri­ety of ‘printable’ ma­te­ri­als. 3D printing will change the way we buy things. In­stead of head­ing out to your favourite mall or even or­der­ing it on­line, all you would need to do is log in to the man­u­fac­turer’s web­site, pay for and down­load the dig­i­tal blue­print for the prod­uct and im­me­di­ately 3D print it.

# 7: 3D PRINTING WILL CHANGE THE FACE OF HEALTH­CARE 3D Printing is al­ready be­ing ac­tively de­ployed by doctors and health­care pro­fes­sion­als all over the world for in­no­va­tive ap­pli­ca­tions. 3D anatom­i­cal mod­els, which mimic the ac­tual anatomy of a pa­tient, help doctors un­der­stand cases and plan surg­eries with rel­a­tive ease. 3D printed sur­gi­cal guides take it a notch higher; these are tools that a doc­tor can use while per­form­ing surg­eries to make high pre­ci­sion cuts and drills on the pa­tient’s body. Im­plants have suc­cess­fully been printed in metal, cus­tom­ized for each pa­tient as a per­fect mimic of their anatom­i­cal shape and size.

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