3D Printing

3D Printing

Has the next industrial revolution begun? When will we be able to print smartphones using our very own desktop printers? Or will we ever? What is 3D printing other than a slow way of making a single part? We regularly discuss this topic at Spark. We all see the power and beauty of additive manufacturing; high-end and low-end. Although some of us are more impressed than others because this technology has been around for decades and we are still mainly printing inferior plastics, others are excited at the opportunity to translate their creative powers into direct and tangible results.

Insight

The designer

For the product design community, the 3d printing revolution already started years ago, with the ability to prototype complex plastic parts, without tooling. This impacted the development process: allowing for a higher frequency of iterations and gaining deeper insights earlier in the development stages. As a matter of fact, 3D printing was initially intended as a prototyping technique: ‘Designed for the designer.’ Specialist prototyping companies have emerged, investing in expensive SLS and SLA machines to facilitate the development industry.

The hobbyist

The current revolution is different. In the past few years, an active community of hobbyists has emerged with its own modus operandi: building and sharing 3D printers, hacking, improving and sharing each other’s designs. The implied incentive is to democratize the production of things: all open source. Some of these hobbyists who are closely connected to the community have now become large, successful manufacturers who ship thousands of 3D printers around the globe.

"SSmall agencies, manufacturers and retailers will increasingly integrate 3D printing into their work, leading to innovative cross-overs along the supply chain and between trades."Michel van Schie, Chief Operations Officer - Spark design & innovation

The growth

Now the revolution is spreading. Machines and materials are diversifying and improving, leading to increased versatility. Prices have dropped, opening the door to serial production. Also, the user community continues to grow and the amount of 3D files you can freely download with it: from simple toys to assemblies, like an action figure, a candy dispenser or even a handgun. Operating printers and 3D CAD software is becoming more user friendly, opening the market to new users. To complete the revolution, a number of recycling machines are about to hit the market. Soon shredding your PET bottle into printing filament for your 3D printer might be commonplace.

Want to read more about 3D printing?

www.3dprint.com

Want to know more about the various available technologies?

www.3dprinting.com/what-is-3d-printing/#methodsandtechnologies

Want to see something cool?

(Source: Carbon3D Inc)

Changing Our business

For us the revolution means change in many ways:

  • Model making has become faster and cheaper. That means we can create more iterations and variations, which in turn lead to a better product in less time.
  • New possibilities in production start-up. First production series increasingly contain 3D printed parts, reducing initial investment and time to market.
  • In some cases, parts in the product will be designed specifically for 3D printing, also for final production.
  • Certain clients are now designing and prototyping their own products, like electronics housing. This is shifting our own focus even further, towards more complex and integrated products.