Are you trying to figure out who uses 3D printers and why they use them? Read this article to learn more about 3D printing.
Even in 2020, 3D printing can seem like a form of technological magic. You can watch the printer create an object you can hold seemingly out of nothing but powder. It’s recently hit the headlines during the coronavirus crisis. People turned to 3D printing to make millions of pieces of PPE. Many people are now asking what 3D printing does and what it can be used for. Maybe you’re wondering who uses 3D printers? Read on to learn more about this fascinating technology.
Benefits and Uses of 3D Printing
The very first 3D printer dates to 1983, but they became more popular in 2011. Let’s see what they can do and what their benefits are.
Traditional manufacturing needs molds for the injection molding process. This makes the prototyping phase expensive since each prototype needs a new mold.
With 3D printing, you can make prototypes, tweak the designs, and print them again. There’s no need for an expensive mold that you may not use again.
In a twist of irony, designers can now 3D print metal molds for the injection modeling process. The SLM 3D printer offers this futuristic possibility.
3D printing is great to create scale models of much larger items. As an example, architectural models once took weeks to complete.
Modelmakers made them from traditional modeling materials like foam, cardboard, or wood. Now they can create far more detailed models within hours.
These models can help with planning applications and boost the creative process. Design flaws become much more obvious in a 3D model than on a drawing.
Even archaeologists and historians use 3D printing. In 2014, the British Museum held an exhibition about mummies including 3D printed objects. They showed visitors copies of what lay between the mummies’ wrappings.
Not everything made on a 3D printer needs to be a prototype or a model. The printers are equally capable of making finished products.
Prop makers in film and television can 3D print lightweight, realistic props.
Jewelry designers create beautiful designs out of unusual materials. This is perfect for customers who have metal allergies.
Or look at the PPE example we opened with. The benefit here is the 3D printers don’t need a huge assembly line. Manufacturing can take up a much smaller footprint.
In the Field
Engineers can use mobile 3D printers to create the parts they need in the field. This could be simple fittings for plumbing or communications systems.
Or they could be extra tools and PPE needed for hazardous tasks. These smaller printers make accessing 3D technology easy to do on the move.
Who Uses 3D Printers?
We’ve talked about 3D printer uses and also the benefits of using 3D printing. So you may be wondering who actually uses these fantastic printers.
Dentists use 3D printing to create dental appliances from scans and X-rays. This avoids the need to take impressions and make casts.
Doctors are even experimenting with 3D printing body parts. Engineers can create 3D printed hip joints using the information from CT or MRI scanners. This means patients get joints custom-made for them.
Custom prosthetics is another area made easier by 3D printing. Patients can receive well-fitting prosthetics based on their own measurements. This makes them more comfortable.
Fashion uses 3D printing, for both jewelry and prototypes. 3D printing is useful where designers want to make prototypes of shoes or sneakers.
Musicians have started using 3D printing to create their own instruments. This means they can save money since instruments can be expensive. They can also custom-make instruments to suit their playing preferences.
Artists are also turning to 3D printing for sculpture or design work. The technology allows artists to create fluid sculptural pieces. They look more organic traditional materials like wood, metal, or glass.
3D printing will also make its way into interior design. Expect 3D printed tiles, furnishings, and fixtures. Each can be custom-made to suit the client. This will make interior design more expressive than mass-produced items can provide.
Car manufacturers use 3D printing at various stages of their process, including prototypes. They can create finished car parts and models for new designs.
This is helpful if manufacturers don’t make certain models anymore. They can create spare parts for owners using 3D printing.
The goal is to be able to 3D print entire cars, which would revolutionize car manufacturing. It would also mean that the whole shell of the car could be recycled, rather than scrapped.
Many of the main uses of 3D printing happen within engineering. Engineers use prototypes or models to reach their finished products.
They can also create jigs and fixtures to save the need for a CNC machine. All on a 3D printer.
3D printing creates less waste and it simplifies a range of manufacturing processes. Many of the products created in this way can be recycled, making it a more sustainable form of manufacturing in the long term.
Manufacturing used to rely on mass production. Making a one-off item wasn’t cost-effective.
With 3D printing, creators can make a unique, bespoke item or thousands of copies from the same design. The only additional cost is that of materials.
Where Can I Use a 3D Printer?
Some people now own their own 3D printers at home. Many schools, colleges, and universities also feature 3D printers. In some cases, your use of the printer is free, but you must provide the materials.
Some branches of Staples and UPS also offer in-store 3D printing services. All you need is a 3D CAD file to get started. The UPS Store also offers 3D scanning if you need to scan your item before you print a copy.
3D Printing—the Future of Manufacturing
Now you know who uses 3D printers and why. They offer amazing benefits by making manufacturing easier and less wasteful. By creating recyclable products, it’s also a more sustainable method.
It also gives businesses more control over their own processes. 3D printing also opens a whole new world for creatives, from designers and artists to musicians and sculptors.
Keen to learn more about what technology can offer? Check out our technology articles for more tech news.
I am interested in all things technology, especially automation, robotics and tech that helps change how society will live in the future.