Three-dimensional or 3D printing has been around for almost 40 years. It has already been around since the early 1980s and survived varied market changes. It has become more popular recently as we witnessed significant changes in manufacturing due to 3D printing.
The industry has witnessed advancements in the uses that this technology may be put to since about 2005 when 3D printing equipment’s cost dropped enough to make it a financially feasible mode of manufacturing for uses like prototyping, design testing, and small runs.
The use and interest in 3D printing have significantly changed as a result of the increase in its applications. Even during its brief period of popularity in the late 2000s, 3D printing was bound to replace manufacturing.
The technical term ‘3D’ was first used in 1984. Chuck Hull applied for a patent for additive manufacturing, which is the technical term for 3D printing. Industrial production was the main emphasis of additive manufacturing during the first 20 years of its existence. Instead of the at-home makers or schools that we are accustomed to today, the objective of technology at this time was more concentrated on applications for factory manufacture.
In the 2000s, there has been a utilitarian shift for 3D printing to cater to desktop printers for the home. Concept modelers and large-scale manufacturers made up the industry. The demand for the new models increased. Concept modelers prioritized office prototyping above production for big businesses that necessitated bigger production.
In 2005, Dr. Adrian Bowyer, a lecturer in mechanical engineering at the University of Bath, founded RepRap, which was the next significant step toward the 3D printing we are familiar with today. Replicating Rapid Prototype, or RepRap is an acronym for a 3D printer that can create the components for another 3D printer. It reproduces itself. The RepRap prototype produced its first piece of itself successfully in 2006. The prototype was then assembled using this component.
The first 3D printing system under $10,000 was then successfully made available by 3D Systems in 2007, marking a significant pricing milestone. This put the industry under pressure to lower pricing to levels that would be acceptable to consumers, while it was still not cheap enough to permit widespread consumer use. This has kick-started wider production of 3D printing systems and reintroduced it as a key player in the market.
Then, the BfB RapMan 3D printer, the first commercially accessible 3D printer based on the RepRap idea, went on sale in January 2009. Other businesses quickly started to imitate them, widening competition and encouraging market diversity.
Subsequently, a RepRap-inspired printer was also made available by Makerbot a short time afterward. Numerous 3D printer businesses have since sprung up all over the world thanks to these printers. We are now in a competitive market for consumer printers that has driven the price of dependable printers down to and below $1,000 thanks to the RepRap movement, which created a new industry of consumer-level 3D printers—a game-changer shift in the manufacturing industry.
In the middle of the 2000s, when 3D printing finally became widely available, it caused changes in a number of significant production sectors including many of the advantages we know today. The ability to efficiently generate prototypes using 3D printing has improved, enabling faster overall production, fewer iterations of prototyping, and cheaper overall costs. One-off prototypes can be created with 3D printing in a matter of hours, with overall turnaround times of as little as one day. Prototyping a model has never been more convenient and easier.
Now that desktop 3D printing technology is available, any business and even every designer can have a 3D printer on their desk. This implies that designs can be easily reproduced in three dimensions without requiring the purchase of a prototype from a supplier. Even desktop machines can now produce practical functioning prototypes using 3D printing technology, evaluating both functionality and design. This is how far 3D technology has brought us and it is bound to go even farther.
One of the initial promises of the technology, 3D printing for manufacturing, is frequently seen as the realization of that promise. Even while we previously stated that 3D printing is not expected to completely replace conventional production anytime soon, this is one instance in which it can be utilized in place of more conventional techniques. Workable, marketable parts may be produced using the method thanks to improvements in the types of materials that are now available and the material qualities that can be mimicked in 3D printing materials.
More and more materials are becoming available for home printing, and new low-cost and efficient solutions are constantly being released. In fact, a 3D printer called Thingmaker from toy manufacturer Mattel can print unique children’s toys for just $299. A 3D printing pen called the 3Doodler is currently offered for $99 on Amazon. This is made possible when layers and layers of strong polymers and metals are fused together to create 3D objects using a template created using 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software. Each layer is made up of liquid, powder, and sheet components and is only around 0.1 mm thick.
Nowadays, if you have the templates, you may use this technology and a 3D printer to design or manufacture 3D versions of just about anything. The first 3D-printed acoustic guitar was made by Scott Summi, demonstrating to the rest of us that it is truly possible. Guitars may be created using 3D printing in plastic, complete with a metal heel joint and soundhole cover. Aside from building functional musical instruments, guitar enthusiasts can also create 3D replicas of the instruments used by their idols or favorite musicians.
One of the more interesting affordances of 3D printing is for medical professionals, too. Science needs to be involved in tech in some little way. Doctors would have a more affordable option with 3D printing to learn about human anatomy and to realistically perform surgery without using cadavers. Surgeons can also design an operation using a printed model of the specific body part before the actual patient has surgery because the printing of these medical models is so accurate.
3D printing has now indeed become so useful in a variety of ways and it is expected to shift the market in the coming years in ways we may have never seen before.