Fancy being able to develop an idea and physically create it all while you’re sat at your desk. The arrival of 3D printing has opened up endless possibilities for designers and concept development teams, giving them the ability to produce parts and concept models using a printer that sits neatly on their desk.
We live in a time where instant gratification underpins every aspect of our lives – from buy now pay later to having TV on demand and shopping at the click of a button. Although this 3D printing is, in many ways, a sign of the times, it has the potential to change the very fabric of our lives.
3D printing takes virtual designs from CAD and transform them into thin, virtual, horizontal cross-sections, building up layers until the model is complete. The Economist described it as technology which “may have an impact on the world as the coming of the factory did” because it makes it as cheap to create one item as it does thousands.
So it’s hugely disruptive for traditional manufacturing, but it’s the technology’s potential as a means to solve more complex problems that has really captured the world’s imagination. Hip replacements, for tissue engineering and the creation of chemical compounds all at the touch of a button. Other suggested applications have included archaeology and forensics, providing a new way to reconstruct damaged artefacts and evidence.
We don’t have to imagine this world – academics and designers are working on making this possible as we speak and the applications for 3D printing are clearly limitless. These printers now cost as little as £1500 (compared to £20,000 three to five years ago) – I think it’s time we all started learning CAD.