MakerBot 3D printer

Image Credit

Over the last few years, there has been an incredible spike in popularity regarding the technology of 3D printing.  There are a few noticeable reasons that 3D printing has gained a dedicated audience of expectant followers. One of the reasons is that 3D printers have the ability to move from niche to niche with seamless effort.  Today, 3D printing is hands down, one of the most interesting technologies that is around and looks to be unchallenged for some time. Each day, something concerning 3D printers grabs the headlines, and more importantly, draws more people’s attention to its wonderful capabilities.

It would be fair to say that consumers have not grasped this technology, as of yet, neither have they fully embraced it. The thing with 3D printing technology is that it has the ability to boggle the mind and make what was once impossible a tangible reality. With positive attributes, such as the ones listed above, 3D printing is starting to draw more people toward it.  Lovers of DIY and hobbyists have multiple opportunities of creating and tinkering about with ideas when it comes to 3D printers. The technology is incredibly versatile with the likes of aerospace giants, NASA, exploring its use in some of their space missions.

What we are seeing are 3D printers capable of carrying out today is literally just scratching the surface of what these printers are actually capable of. Today, using a 3D printer, we are able to create high quality prosthetics of which the detail has never been seen before. 3D printers are also being used in the trials of creating human organs, houses, cars and food.

How a 3D printed pizza may look

Image Credit

This easily shows just how far 3D printing technology has advanced over the last 30 years. It also shows that this technology is a serious player and will also be a major factor in the way that our future will be shaped.

What are the Biggest Challenges that 3D Printing Technology Faces Today?

You could be one of the many people who have never even seen a 3D printer or came into contact with one of these amazing devices. If this is so, then you will see no real relevance for 3D printing in your everyday life, tasks and duties. At this time, the technology of 3d printing is on a growth spurt and is mentioned before becoming increasingly popular as the days go on.  Operating a 3D printer does take some specialized skills and knowledge, but the skills and knowledge needed are not that difficult to learn.  At the moment, there are libraries and colleges that offer simple computer training for those who are not familiar with the internet or who don’t know their way around operating a computer. In the near future, you will be sure to see similar classes that will both give hands-on experience of operating a 3D printer and teach users with basic knowledge that will be enough to get them started and creating their own 3D printed objects.

In terms of 3D printing, to be adopted and embraced worldwide, there needs to be a wider range of design tools and 3D printable materials made available to use.  However, there have been some major advancements in new materials being made available and there are now more materials to use rather than just plastic. Some of the new materials are even edible!

From Rapid Prototyping in Space to the Kitchen, Where will 3D printers turn up next?

Taking the humble 3D printer into the kitchen is in the trial process as printer educational experts look to create food that is edible and can be created at the push of a button by a 3D printer.  The kitchen is the place in the home where new appliances are always welcome. Using a 3D printer allows the user to create a wider range of unique and interesting objects and products.  If 3D printers are introduced into the kitchen, it should allow the same opportunities for budding chefs and those who love to cook.

NASA has already created pizza for their astronauts to eat while undertaking space missions in an attempt to create and provide a higher quality range of edible food for them to eat.  If NASA is involved with 3D printers and the creation of food, then there must be a future for this technology and, more importantly, food production using them. The kitchen would be a different place should 3d printers be introduced. We could be seeing meals prepared in minutes from fresh ingredients, as said above, from the push of a button.  At the moment, we are just seeing the introduction of the 3D printer in the food industry so to estimate its results will be difficult, although what we have seen from 3D printers in other shows us that we can expect great things.

Is 3D Printing on Course to Change Traditional Manufacturing?

The hint to this question is in the name of the topic “traditional manufacturing.” Traditional hints of how it has always or is usually done. Industry and manufacturing are changes progressing at such a fast rate of pace. Today, consumer demand levels are at an all-time high. The consumer is calling for higher quality products on demand. This call by the consumer is forcing companies into looking at newer technologies that can meet the high demands being called upon.  The thing that companies are finding by using three dimension printing technology in manufacturing is that the 3D printer has been able to fulfill the gaps and cracks in manufacturing that traditional methods never could.  Using 3d printing in manufacturing opens up a whole world of possibilities and opportunities of which have never been seen before and have still to come.

3D Printing: What kind of Materials are Available?

For those who don’t know about the materials that can be used with a 3D printer to create all manner of things and objects here is the list.

Plastics

Plastics are one of the first materials and one of the longest standing materials that are still being used today with 3D printers. The cost of plastic materials is relatively cheap and the plastic itself is easy to print with and create durable high quality products.

Powders

Using materials that are in powder form, usually means that higher end printers need to be used. Powders can be used to create a wide range and all manner of things. Let’s take a quick look at some of the materials that come in powder form.

  • Multi-color – This material comes in a full color range and has the appearance that is similar to sand. It has a granular consistency. Anything that has been created from multi-color has been constructed from the finest grain powder.
  • Aluminade – This is similar in appearance to multi-color. It also has a sandy and granular look about it. Aluminade makes for a very strong material which is sturdy and rigid. Anything that has been created using Aluminade has been made up from a gray aluminium powder with a mix of polymide.
  • PolymideThis is possibly one of the most popular materials that can be used when 3D printing. Polymide is a very strong and extremely flexible material to work with. Any object created using Polymide will be high in detail and will have been made from a white colored, very fine granular powder.

Resins

There are a number of resins available to use when it comes to 3D printing. The only setback with using resin is that design and structure of the object being created is limited to lack of rigidness in the material and lack of support while being printed. Here is a list of commonly used resins below.

Clear or Transparent Resin

  • This type of resin is very popular. It starts off as a liquid while being printed and then hardens into a strong, sturdy, and waterproof material. The finished material is an excellent choice for models that need to be transparent. This material gives off a smooth, high-quality finished transparent look.

Paintable Forms of Resin

  • Paintable resin has been designed so it can, like its name, be painted offering a high-quality finish and classy look. Any object created using paintable resin which has been professionally painted will look amazing.

High Detail Resin

  • Using a photo, polymeric liquid is what is needed when you are looking to create objects that are of high quality and high detail. This type of resin is used when smaller objects of high quality and detail are needed.

Other Materials Available

There are a few other materials that include ceramics and various types of metal that are also readily available to use with 3D printers. These are listed below.

  • Bronze – Any object that is being created in bronze metal must first be created using a bronze powder which is also infused with bronze. The reason for using bronze when creating models is that it is cost effective, yet one of the strongest metal materials that can be used.
  • Silver and Gold – These precious metals are often used when creating jewelry and items of intricate detail. Initially, either the gold, silver or other precious metal that is being used is melted down into a molten state. It is then poured into a wax mold, which has been created using a 3D printer.
  • Titanium- This metal is well-known for being incredibly light and strong. In fact, Titanium is the strongest material that can be used while 3D printing. Objects are created by the powerful heated laser that fuses the titanium powder together until the object of desire is formed.
  • Ceramic Materials- Using ceramic materials for 3D printing is very popular as the finished article has a shiny, smooth surface, which is resistant to heat and is also food friendly. Items that are created from ceramic are usually home decor and various items of tableware. Ceramic powder is used to create the items which are then sealed with porcelain before being finally glazed and polished.

The technology of 3D printing is advancing each day and as 3D printers become more advanced and more efficient, we can expect them to be introduced more into our homes and places of work. At the moment, 3D printing has not burst fully on the scene, but you can be certain that this technology that has risen slowly from its origin is about to take the world, technology and various industries by storm. What we are seeing now is simply the calm before the storm!