3d printing is a truly incredible technology that stands to revolutionize manufacturing and design unlike anything in history. To keep it simple just think of a regular printer, but instead of ink creating text on paper, a 3d printer actually prints or places down materials layer by layer to create a physical object that can then be removed by hand and used in the real world. So, if you use a 3d software program to design an item you want like figurines, jewelry, pendants, phone cases etc. you can then have a 3d printer actually print that design out into a fully functional, consumer ready product.
3d printing has been called the 2nd Industrial revolution.
The Manufacturing benefits to this are amazing. Imagine you design a jewelry set and want to get it manufactured. Prior to 3d printing this process would take a great deal of time, energy, research, networking and then there would be the issue of a minimum quantity. Many manufacturers require a minimum quantity order of anywhere from 100 to 10,000. Now with a 3d printer, you do not have to risk being stuck with inventory that you may not sell.
"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.”
— The Economist, in a February 10, 2011 leader
What about a variety of materials and colors?
You can literally print your products made to order, one at a time and keep the price low. I have seen up to 30 different materials available including, sterling silver, plastic, ceramic, stainless steel, sandstone and even gold. As this technology continues to develop there will be more and more materials becoming available. Proof of the advanced materials is in the fact that this technology is being used in industrial design, construction, automotive, aerospace, architecture, dental and medical fields plus even more. Multiple colors are also available and more and more options are becoming available everyday.
Examples of 3d printed products and 3d printers:
The next 3 images are from makerbot.com:
The next 4 images are from shapeways.com:
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The Cube 3d printer The Up Mini 3d printer
around $1300.00 around $1,100.00
Bottom Line For Artist Who Want to Print in 3D:
The bottom line is your designs can be manufactured in single quantities at a reasonable price and get to market or to your home fast, 10 -21 days in many cases.
You can also own your own printer for under $1,200 and control your own manufacturing. Look for the prices to trend down going forward and the availability to increase as printing in 3d becomes more mainstream.
Imagine having an idea for a new toy design or a piece of jewelry and being able to actually have it made to your exact specifications in your own home on your very own 3d printer, or without having to have it made over seas and needing to order a minimum quantity of 10,000.
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3d Printing - What Is It?
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How does 3d printing work?
It works and it's awesome. Some really smart people figured out how to get it done and now we can all benefit from it. There are several different methods of how 3d printing works. Basically the printer is laying down super thin slices of material in different forms, sometimes powdered and then it is applying a method to bond each layer together sometimes using heat, lasers, light, chemicals, etc. The object is then "built" by adding successive layers until it is complete, sometimes taking several hours up to several days depending on the design and the materials. Another great advantage to this method is that much less material is wasted, the item is not carved out of an existing block of material like wood, stone or metal, discarding the excess.