3D Printing – revolutionizing the future or jeopardising it?

3d-printingIt seems that year 2013 has come to make the world techno freak. After the google glass and smart watches, now its 3D printing – revolutionizing the tech industry. For those who are newbies, 3D printing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital model using additive processes, where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material.

In last few years, this technology has made quite an impact in almost every sector especially the manufacturing. 3D printing is used in the fields of jewellery, footwear, industrial design, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), automotive, aerospace, dental and medical industries, education, geographic information systems, civil engineering, and many others.

3D printing is usually performed by a materials printer using digital technology. A 3D image is first created by using a computer aided design(CAD) software and is sent to the 3D printer, which put material in layer by layer form to actually build the entire object. It means people are now able to download objects rather than just files from the Web, with a help of a 3D printer.

There are startups such as Shapeways, which are acting as a marketplace of 3D designs and subsequent models, where anyone can upload their designs and the company will 3DPrint and ship the object to you anywhere in the world.

With several 3D printing companies offering 3d printing machines to the professionals including global players like Makerbot, the popularity of 3d printing has encouraged companies to make 3d printers available for domestic purposes too.

Maplin, a retailer of electronic goods in the UK and Ireland in July has rolled out its 3d printers to high street in UK on a cost of £700 – making it possible for anyone to run to the mall and come home with the means of printing out a new Game chess, or a shoes or maybe jewellery.

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Makerbot has also released its own 3d printers in the market. The device is a complete combination of art and technology – which is no bigger than a paper printer replaces the ink cartridges of the plastic raw material costing a little more (£30) than the paper printer cartridge.

Recently, Makerbot was acquired by a leading 3D printing company Stratasys for approx. $ 400 million in stock, after the expiration of patent for FDM technology on which Makerbot printers were based.

Also, as per the latest reports, in the coming February 2014, the key patents for 3D printing via ‘laser sintering’ technology will get expired, thereby making both the processing and materials cost drop inevitably.

Like everywhere else, 3d printing in India is also picking up its pace. There are several Indian companies working under this technology namely Cycloid.in, Z Corporation, CCAD center and many more.

It might be said that the next year will be full of opportunities for upcoming players to infuse fresh and more innovative ideas into the field instead of just making prototypes of the existing ones.

But where the technology has given new heights to art and imagination – as one can build possibly anything in the world using a 3d printer – 3d printing has given given rise to some serious concerns too, as the technology is not just limited to making shoes or jewellery but also to killing machines like Guns/rifles. With news swirling over the medias about a number of cases where one has successfully manufactured a gun by using 3d printer, whether or not the technology forces governments to rethink of its ban – is the new concern everyone has their fingers crossed for.

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(To email the Authors of this Post: meha@wirefootindia.com / devesh@wirefootindia.com)

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