Technology

3D Printing Enables Companies to Innovate and Remain Nimble

3d printerThis guest column is by writer & tech blogger, Philip Piletic

It’s no secret that changes are coming to the way companies develop and build items and how consumers will be able to customize things for use in their own businesses as well as at home. 3D printing enables you to design an item, such as a scale model prototype of a new piece of equipment or to replicate a part that has broken or gone missing when the original manufacturer no longer supports the product.

Instead of mass producing items in factories and counting on marketing and analytics to ensure there will be a healthy marketplace to sell them, we can anticipate that more items will be built in a more customized fashion. This will be true whether a company prints it out in its own premises or simply releases the model for a fee and lets B2B or B2C customers print them out on their own end

3D printing helps to unleash people’s imagination into the world in a way that has been previously impossible. Not only can you make your own designs to make bespoke products, you can share them with friends, family and colleagues or put them out on the market to sell to people who are enthusiastic about your particular design sense.

With that in mind, read on for some examples of 3D printing innovations in such areas as home construction, toy manufacturing and industrial valve production.

Making New Buildings with 3D Printing

World's first 3D printed office was unveiled in Dubai in May 2016

World’s first 3D printed office was unveiled in Dubai in May 2016

We’ve come a long way from the mass-produced, cookie-cutter homes in the suburbs of Levittown, where architects designed two basic homes and filled the US suburbs with them in the 1947, noted a report from the State Museum of Pennsylvania. Fast forward to 2016, when Singapore is now preparing to develop new public housing in a bid to address the growing need for homes.

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One problem hampering builders’ efforts is a lack of supplies. This is compounded by Singapore’s continued reliance on foreign construction workers, whose availability is less predictable than domestic labor pools. To address the issue, the Singapore Centre for 3D Printing has received $107.7 million in funding from industry and the government to begin using 3D printing to boost public housing, according to a recent report at Digital Trends.

Toy Production Goes from Manufacturers to the Family Garage

Mattel presented a 3D printer for kids in February 2016

Mattel presented a 3D printer for kids in February 2016

Children’s toys used to be made of wood and metal in centuries past, but since the 20th century, manufacturers increasingly turned to plastic to make all manner of toys, from tracks for model race cars to dolls, balls and figurines for board games.

With the advent of 3D printing, toy manufacturing will never be the same. A case in point is toy manufacturing giant Mattel, which had unveiled its new “ThingMaker” 3D printer according to an article at TechCrunch.

Mattel includes a 3D printing app that it created in partnership with software developer AutoDesk. The company made the app simple enough for small children to design and then print out their own 3D toys. This ability to re-order matter to your own specifications is unprecedented, and young people exposed to this type of 3D printing technology at such an early age may very well go on to create things for our society that are impossible to imagine today.

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Developing New Manufacturing Methods for Industry

3D printing is making big changes in how industry develops products too. For example, scientists from the University of Wollongong recently announced the creation of what they refer to as “4D printing.” This involves 3D printed structures that can transform over time (the 4th dimension), according to a recent report from 3Dprint.com.

A team of researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (affiliated with the U. of Wollongong) are planning to make medical “soft robots” based on a new kind of valve that they will create with a 3D printer. The valve will actuate according to the temperature of the water it’s in. A smart valve could be set up to only open when water reaches a particular temperature, such as to shut it off when it gets too hot.

These examples of new methods to design and output 3D printed objects are just the tip of the iceberg, of course. It’s difficult to imagine an industry that cannot take advantage of this new technology, with customized items become more and more prevalent going forward. Being able to print items for use across the board, from toys to components in industrial products to elements in building construction will change the way we look at the material world and how we can reshape it according to an unfettered imagination.

Image Credit – The Glen Ellyn Library Foundation


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