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3D Printing & The Maker Movement

3D printing is a very interesting form of manufacturingtechnology in my opinion. This technology allows for the creation of prettymuch anything you can think of. Of course there are some design parameters, andthere are only so many materials offered – but there are quite a fewpossibilities for what can be produced through 3D printing.  The amount of materials is blowing up in quantity in theworld of 3D printing. There are over 100 materials to choose from in fact! Someof the materials are similar to rubber. Some are very mechanical, such as stainlesssteel, Inconel, and titanium. Some of the materials are flame retardants, likeprime-part. Other materials offer extreme levels of detail. Quite a few arehard, while others are soft. Some even offer full color!  There are quite a few size parameters to keep in mind. Somemachines, or 3D printers used in 3D printing offer very small build envelopes,or build sizes. These small printers are great for things like hearing aids,dental applications, and jewelry. Other printers are great for prototyping suchas the objet line of printers, which can be any size from the size of yourdesktop printer to the size of a refrigerator. Other printers are larger thanyour king sized bed, producing large parts. There is even a printer which islarge enough to print concrete houses! The size and possibilities for materialsare very extensive within 3D printing.  Speaking of printers, I want to highlight what the consumeris going to be able to use. Instead of branching out to a 3D printing serviceor an expensive manufacturing facility, users are going to be able to purchasetheir own printers. Some of these 3D printers can be over $100,000. Some ofthem are well over $50,000. The “affordable” ones have been above $20,000. Now,thanks to the maker movement, we have been seeing printers dropping well under$2,000. Some printers are even under $1,000!  Of course the much more inexpensive models aren’t going tobe producing incredibly intricate pieces which triumph over the expensiveprinters, but they are creating affordable prints. These 3D printing machinesare here to change the way that users manufacture everything! Some of theseprinters have been designed to fit in a brief case. Some are no larger thanyour desktop 2D printer. These printers have typically ran off FDMtechnologies, but there have been some SLA printers that have been coming out.In fact, lately there has been a strong variety in cheap, or inexpensiveprinters in the maker movement. 3D printing companies like 3D systems,Stratasys, Makerbot, and others have been putting out some seriously powerfulwork by empowering the average “maker” to work with manufacturing. Thistechnology is available to more than just the industry giants.  I think that within the next 50 years or so, there will be astrong movement pressed on making manufacturing easier for the average user.There will be printers available at places like hobby lobby, and office depot –giving us the power to manufacture pretty much whatever we want when we want todo it. 

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