In the 20th century, no other invention affected the mankind more than computer technology did. With the advent of computers in 1950s and internet in 1990s, the fundamental way of doing things has through massive changes. These technologies made our lives better, opened up new avenues and possibilities and gave us a hope for the future. But it generally decades for an ecosystem to be built across a particular technology to take it to masses and achieve the truly disruptive nature of that technology.
It is widely believed that 3D printing also has the vast potential to become one of these technologies. The most basic, differentiating principle behind 3D printing technology is that it is an additive manufacturing process. And this is indeed the key because 3D printing is a radically different manufacturing method based on advanced technology that builds up parts, additively, in layers. This is fundamentally different from any other existing traditional manufacturing techniques.
Traditional manufacturing process has evolved a lot over time from hand based manufacturing to the automated processes such as machining, casting, forming and molding. Yet these technologies all demand subtracting material from a larger block – whether to achieve the end product itself or to produce a tool for casting or molding processes — and this is a serious limitation within the overall manufacturing process.
For many applications traditional design and production processes impose a number of unacceptable constraints, including the expensive tooling, fixtures and the need for assembly for complex parts. In addition, the subtractive manufacturing processes, such as machining can result in up to 90% of the original block of material being wasted.
3D printing is an enabling technology that encourages and drives innovation with unprecedented design freedom while being a tool-less process that reduces prohibitive costs and lead times. Components can be designed specifically to avoid assembly requirements with intricate geometry and complex features created at no extra cost. 3D printing is utilizing up to 90% of standard materials and throughout the product‘s operating life through lighter and stronger design.
In recent years, 3D printing has gone beyond being an industrial prototyping and manufacturing process as the technology has become more accessible to small companies and even individuals. Previously, only big corporates used to own 3D printers as the scale and economics of owning 3D printer make it prohibitive for smaller companies to own one. But with the rapid decline of the printer cost, the technology has become more affordable. Now a day, smaller and less capable 3D printers can be acquired at affordable price
This has opened up the technology to a much wider audience, and as the exponential adoption rate continues apace on all fronts, more and more systems, materials, applications, services and ancillaries are emerging.