The new way of printing – 3D printing

Have you ever imagined before that we would be able to print out 3D objects through a printer? It is not a dream anymore.

Nowadays, scientists have introduced the newest method of objects presenting with the newest technology – 3D printing. Customers are able to print 3D shapes out of a machine called 3D printer. There are some small 3D printers available for sale in the market and the process is very straight forward which is using required software, choosing the object online and print. This can be done anywhere even at home as long as there is a 3D printer.

Tiny 3D printers that are available to the general consumer

How does the 3D printer work?

According to research, 3D printing is a process of creating a three-dimensional solid object from a digital model. It is invented by Chuck Hull in 1986.

To explain the process of 3D printing, there are four common methods to create objects. First, fused deposition modeling technology, a type of extrusion technology, is the most common and cheapest method. It works by melting the materials to create certain products; however, the variety of materials that this method is capable of producing is very limited. Selective laser sintering technology is commonly used in industrial style prototyping settings. It works by melting together powdered materials with laser and spreading powder on top of it. The process repeats until the product is built. The main advantage of this method is that a wide variety of materials can be printed. Powder bed and binder technology, is a process very similar to selective laser sintering which also manufactures the products through a bed of powder. An advantage of this method is the ability to print parts in many colours. Last but not least, stereolithography technology, a type of light polymerized technology, can create high definition products quickly but it is the most expensive compared to others.

(The video will explain how does laser sintering work in a simple way.)

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What are the impacts of 3D printing?

In 21st Century, people cannot live without technologies. Every technology has their positive and negative impacts and 3D printing is of no exception.

3D printing technology, also referred to as additive manufacturing, has been used in manufacturing industry frequently to replace the old prototyping methods. The benefits include cheap and quick manufacturing which is able to create better quality and less waste.  Compared to traditional manufacturing methods, 3D printing is able to save up to 70% of the cost though low shipping and packaging cost. Also, traditional methods take up to weeks or even months to complete the object which 3D printing only takes several hours. Although the process of 3D printing is fast, the quality of the object is preserved or even better. Since objects are created layer by layer through the software, customers can have full control of the process and therefore able to create the perfect product. Moreover, there is a significant amount of cost saving by minimizing the waste. Lots of waste is created through the traditional manufacturing process such as the surplus materials. Since 3D printer prints the object exactly from the design and produces less leftover materials, 3D printing minimizes this issue that traditional process has.

Although there are lots of great impacts from 3D printing, it is important to know about the negative impacts and how to prevent them.

The most serious negative impact of this 3D printing technology is that it can easily be used with bad purposes. The disruptive power of 3D printing cannot be neglected. Since there are some tiny 3D printers on the market, people with criminal thoughts can easily build their own weapons such as guns at home. According to the Forbes, the blueprint of 3D plastic guns has been downloaded for more than 100,000 times. Therefore, 3D printing can be really dangerous if indiscriminately used.

According to Dai Nippon Printing, a Japanese 3D printing firm, new security software is introduced to stop people from manufacturing illegal items such as firearms. This program works by creating a database of information and analyzing the data while accessing raw 3D data, and determines if certain products require legal authorization.

The ability of the new software of Dai Nippon Printing.

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The applications of the 3D printing technology

After knowing all the pros and cons of 3D printing, it is time to discover its applications.

3D printing is not only used in manufacturing industry, but also used in medical treatments. According to the NBC News, a 3D printed skull has successfully implanted in a woman which is a huge advance in medication. The surgery is about replacing a patient’s skull with a 3D printed plastic skull, which took place at University Medical Center Utrecht and lasted 23 hours. After three months from the surgery, the woman recovers very well and now she is able to go back to work.

3D printing can be used as personal uses such as customizing jewelry, toys or tools with any sizes, shapes or colours. Customers can create their unique products which mean that they can turn their ideas into real products. Customer can print the replacement of tiny parts that can be easily lost at home instead of ordering online and waiting the delivery. According to research firm Strategy Analytics, home 3D printing could evolve into a $70 billion industry per year by 2030. An independent market research firm IDTechEx also did a research about the demand of different industry of 3D printing.

This chart from research firm IDTechEx shows the demand from different areas of 3D printing from 2012 to 2015.

 

 3D printing and piracy?

In the past, people could infringe the copyright by buying the object physically, copy and distribute them to make profit. However, in 21st Century, copyright is much easier to be infringed due to the convenience of 3D printing. Infringing copyright becomes simple and easy, people only have to go online and select the designs that they want, print them off using the 3D printer, and distribute them. Also, people can print off any objects easily that they would have to purchase the copyright of the items before. This will lead to a huge problem that manufacturing industry is also worrying about which is the infringement of copyright due to the advanced technology being introduced to the world.

Until recently, there is no law that can exactly prevent piracy of 3D printing. Intellectual property law cannot protect a physical object such as 3D object but the law can protect the blueprint of the design.

3D printing allows physical objects to be copied without authorization and sharing of designs of 3D printing through internet. The blueprint of the design can be protected under intellectual property law which is the same way as the music or movie.

In the market, a member of systems and software designed to protect the copyright from 3D printing. For example, Authenrise, located at California, is a company that provides a streaming service that prevents the customer to print objects that are procured from others but allows customers to buy the protected goods online legally. The software is also designed to only allow the 3D printer to print off the object once and will not send out the raw design file so that the purchaser cannot share and copy the original designs.

Since there is a grey area of the copyright of 3D printing, cultural clarity is the best way to protect the development of 3D printing until there is better legal clarity.

 

Interesting way of using 3D printing

If 3D printers are able to print 3D objects, why not print 3D food objects? This crazy idea has become a reality – recently, the first 3D chocolate printer is available in the market. This printer can print any shape as long as the design model is created in the computer.

(This video will show how the 3D chocolate printer works and how amazing it is)

What do you think about this?  I think it is amazing and I want to own one.

 

Conclusion

In the modern society, technology advances and changes at a very fast pace. New technologies bring convenience to us but also may lead to dangerous situations if not used in a proper manner. 3D printing is a brand new technology that can create 3D objects much easier than it was in the past which can be useful in different areas of industry. With the appropriate motive, this new technology will for sure bring convenience to us and make our lives easier than they ever been.

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