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“Three-dimensional printing makes it as cheap to create single items as it is to produce thousands and thus undermines economies of scale. It may have as profound an impact on the world as the coming of the factory did….Just as nobody could have predicted the impact of the steam engine in 1750—or the printing press in 1450, or the transistor in 1950—it is impossible to foresee the long-term impact of 3D printing. But the technology is coming, and it is likely to disrupt every field it touches.”

[Source: The Economist]

Imagine creating an object that you have only seen in your head. Just use some CAD (computer aided design) software to create it on your computer and a 3D printer will do the rest, creating a three-dimensional solid object. The object is created by adding layers of material, much like printing ink on a piece of paper, just many many times over until all the layers make it 3D. In the beginning the materials were not robust enough, so the technology was not really applicable, but with the arrival of new materials everything changed.

It is already being used in automotive industry, dental and medical industry, civil engineering, the film industry and many more, and this is just the beginning. You can even use it to reconstruct fossils and ancient artifacts.

Just imagine what effect this has on the prosthetics industry. They can actually build custom limbs now, and do it very quickly, which was not the case before. Dental care can also be much improved using 3D printing. No more biting into molds, just a digital image of your mouth is taken, and you can get your implants the next day.

The film industry also has great benefits from this technology. In “Iron Man 2” 3D printing was used to create the Iron Man suit.

Also laser scanners improve the technology a great deal. Now there are laser scanners that you can just point to the object and the laser creates the CAD file of the object almost instantly. The problem with it is that, potentially, you can replicate anything thus creating the problem of intellectual property infringement.

The information that makes all this seem more real is the price. Now you can get a 3D printer for as little as $1,299. At that price it becomes a highly affordable item for almost every household and it can be very soon that we start making our own toys, cutlery and whatnot. Just imagine all the possibilities that this creates. 3D printing is no science fiction, it’s here and now. And bear in mind that this is just the beginning.

 

 


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