3D Printing – A Flash In The Pan Or Something More?

3D Printing – A Flash In The Pan Or Something More?3D printing is a bit of a buzz word at the moment and is garnering some curiosity amongst businesses and homes alike. But what is it? The name suggests that your printer can magically churn out origami-type paper models but this isn’t the case. For starters, most 3D printers use plastic as their material (although some use metal or ceramic).

They are able to create and replicate three-dimensional objects and models. It’s a way of installing a manufacturing line in your very own home or office.

How Does It Work?

In a nutshell, the printer relies on information from CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) design. It takes the information it receives to build up a picture of what it is to produce, and working layer by layer it sets about forming the object. While this sounds a bit space-age it is actually nothing new. Large manufacturing companies such as automobile manufacturers and aerospace companies have been using the technique for around 25 years. It’s just that it’s only now that we can aspire to have similar sorts of technology available to us on a budget that is realistic.

And How Would It Benefit Me?

3D printing is being used by small and medium enterprises to create new product prototypes, along with small-scale factory lines and design. Historically inventors and manufacturers would have to outsource the creation of their prototype to a specialist firm but this was a very expensive option. Now, they are arming themselves with the facilities to produce test models and prototypes themselves, meaning there is far more scope for experimentation within a modest budget.

Who Would Use 3D Printers?

Anybody that is in the business of creating models, toys – any physical goods – would reap huge benefits from 3D printing. It is being used by jewellery designers, toy producers and even architects (to produce scale models) and 3D printing is also known to be useful in the building of prosthetics. The main advantage of 3D printing is that after your initial set up costs and material bills the process is relatively inexpensive – especially when compared to the price of outsourcing the same job. It accelerates the design process and makes weeding out teething errors in design extremely efficient.

And the Downsides?

The problem with 3D printing as technology stands today is that production speeds are still quite slow. So if you are looking to produce large quantities of stock then you’ll still be better off getting a specialist to do it for you. If creating the odd prototype of your work is all you’ll need it for, it will suit you down to the ground. They are expensive too – although prices for small business and domestic use are coming down slowly.

3D printing is a big player in the future of design and manufacturing and as technology advances it will become more and more of a staple feature in business. If you’ve a business that would benefit from it, then it may not be as out of reach as you fear – cost it out and see if your business would benefit from it.

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Today’s guest author, Jason Meir, is a marketing executive working for

inspired-designandprint.com.au, based in Melbourne, Australia. He believes that sending out corporate stationary as gift items to his customers on behalf of the company goes a long way in maintaining good business relations.

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