Imagine creating something out of small chemicals and components.
Additive manufacturing, a process called 3D printing more commonly, is perhaps one of the most exciting changes to the manufacturing industry in the last 10 to 20 years. It’ a way of using computing technology to create designs.
That seems simple but the concept can provide a new way for manufacturers to create products that is less expensive, more flexible, and faster.
Take a look at what 3D printers – the technology that does the work itself – can do to change the industry.
What Is 3D Printing Itself?
A good starting point is to understand what 3D printing is. In short, it is the process of making solid, three-dimensional objects based on just a digital file that’s been created.
Additive processes are used to make this happen. This means that a material is laid down and additional layers are added on top of it, one on top of the other.
Each layer is a very thin – sometimes hard to see – addition to the first layer. Eventually, they build up and create the three-dimensional object contained within the file.
Another way to see what 3D printing can do is to consider what traditional manufacturing is. In this process, called a subtractive manufacturing process, items are cut out or carved from a larger component. For example, a large chunk of plastic is shaped down by cutting away components to create the desired shape and size.
3D printing, on the other hand, adds component after component, to create the final product. This allows for very complex solutions to be made rather quickly.
How Can 3D Printers Be Useful?
Taking the 3D printing process and building from it, it’s possible to create various sized and styles printers that can be used in a variety of locations.
Consider that a printer like this can be added to a simple warehouse or even a small shop.
The technology can then be used to print objects on demand – whether it be a set of sneakers being built once a customer designs them to a product being managed onsite of a small commercial shop.
Take a look at a few examples of how 3D printers are already being used and how they can be further used to achieve various goals and tasks.
A patient comes in for an eye exam. Using software, the lab technician – perhaps right onsite – can create a customized lens for the customer.
They can use a variety of materials within the printers to create very customized solutions for that individual. Imagine the convenience this can offer to the person who wants and needs help right away.
Eyewear – from sunglasses to prescription glasses – are also shaped and sized to fit a specific individual’s needs. It is nearly always necessary to focus on items that are customized to style, too.
With an additive process, this can be done easily and in-house, making the cost of eyewear less prohibitive, especially to those who are older with advancing conditions.
Yet another highly functional and beneficial way to use 3D printing is with prosthetics. They can be designed for the right size and shape, of course, but they can also be made very realistic.
This means creating a solution to a problem that is very lifelike and confidence-boosting. This does not just apply to things like a person’s arm or leg, though.
It can be used for any need including fingers, ears, nose, and even the eyeball itself. The customization allowable here can make all of the difference in a person’s life.
For those seeking to replicate the Ancient Roman’s columns for a building or crafting a solution for the restoration on a very old home, these are all possible with 3D technology.
They can also, interestingly, be used to replicate ancient works for archeological aspects.
For example, scientists can use this type of technology to create a replicate of a tomb or piece of pottery to better understand its structure and use.
Consider a few more examples such as:
- Creating scale models of objects for research purposes
- Movie prop creation
- Reconstruction of bone parts for forensic information and pathology
- Reconstructing fossils to bring extinct creatures back to realistic form
- Helping to repair heavily damaged evidence in a criminal case
- Restoring buildings and devices to a functional level
They can be used in virtually any industry as well. This includes
- Consumer textiles including footwear and jewelry
These are just a handful of examples. With the use of 3D printing, there is no limit to what can be made close to home.
Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing
From a more functional point-of-view, 3D printing also works to create prototypes quickly. For example, if a company is designing a new product, they want to see and feel that product in hand.
Prototyping through traditional manufacturing can take months to complete as each component of the machine needs to be used to make it possible.
However, with the use of 3D printing technology, that time delay is virtually gone. Now, the designers can upload their object into the 3D printer and, within a matter of hours, have the prototype in front of them.
This is called rapid prototyping.
When it comes to embracing and getting the most out of this type of technology, there is one key factor to consider. That is the actual materials used to create these elements.
That is where companies like Polymer Chemistry come into the picture.
With the technology and resources we have, it becomes possible for you to comprehensively change the way products are made.
Polymer Chemistry can create artificial and natural products for use in a wide range of applications used to handle small problems or to change the world.
There’s no doubt 3D printers are useful in a variety of applications and industries.
The question is, how do we make them more readily available to reach these industries and the people that benefit from them?
They’re working on that at Polymer Chemistry, too.