We’re hedging on 2015 being a big year for 3D Printing. Today, the 3D printing industry is valued in the ballpark of $3.0 Billion, with projections reaching $21 Billion as soon as 2020. As a technology, 3D printing isn’t exactly new, but in the hands of the common creative its potential will be the gateway to the next industrial revolution. The naysayers will certainly detest “cool…you can 3D print a seahorse” but there’s a lot more at work here than simply creating any object you could ever imagine. 3D printing removes the industrial based hierarchy in which products are created, manufactured, distributed, and sold. We are potentially looking at the “internet of manufacturing”. These printers have been limited by some major barriers in living up to this claim, yet have shown remarkable resilience.
Cost of Operation and Surface Quality
When it comes to most modern day manufacturing processes, 3D printing lacks much of the speed and qualitative value of traditional manufacturing. Aesthetically speaking, the output of most consumer based 3D printers could be compared to some of the first television sets. Objects are low in resolution, and the blemishes and production artifacts are obvious to the naked eye. Fortunately, thanks to inspiration from The Terminator, a new technology has been created that will increase speed up to 25x – 100x. Carbon3D has created a process called continuous liquid interface production (CLIP). This process removes the “piece by piece” method of current printers which use additive manufacturing techniques. What begins as a pool of liquid, is reverse engineered into a single piece of material. This is achieved by using UV light which creates cohesion on directed parts of the surface, while oxygen prevents the rest of the pooled liquid from solidifying. You can read more here, and catch the process below.
Objects Are Limited to The Base Size of The Printer
Another primary limitation is based upon the maximum size of an object in relation to the printers base. For most, having a printer that is large enough to print a house, isn’t exactly an option. Even if it were, just a median sized printer can take up a significant space for the average weekend hustler.
Fortunately there is now a solution.
A new (and free) software application called 3DPrintTech 2.0 has been built to allow components to be segmented and connected using specialized 3D printed connectors. You can now print pieces of an object that can then be fused by customized connections based upon user preferences. This software will not only allow small sized printers to build mass scale works, but also create new possibilities in production and engineering for objects that need to travel extreme distances before being assembled.
Time Investment to Build Objects
At a consumer level, for those who will not soon have access to CLIP based manufacturing, 3D printed objects of even the small surface area can take hours of time to print. This is due to the processes of adding each individual fragment (voxel) layer by layer. This can be especially problematic when a full scale product isn’t needed, or when objects being printed are simple proofs of concept.
Enter WirePrint, a new software development that will allow objects to be printed in a wire frame prototype design. This software will speed up the rate of completion for an object by roughly 10 fold, and will work with nearly every type of consumer based printer. This will give a powerful advantage for those who wish to create quick prototypes for developing base models, ergonomics, and life sized prototypes.
You can check out WirePrint in action below.