Jan 09, 2012

What uses for 3D printing have you found?

The cost of 3D printers has come down so much that my dept bought one more or less for the heck of it. I think it ended up costing less than $600. Most of our use of it so far has been making (to us) amusing company theme mini-scultures for staff meetings. Today was LSU themed, thanks to our resident Cajun. Other than getting a good laugh, what are people actually using these inexpensive 3D printers for?

I don't have one so I couldn't tell you too much about their uses. However, here's a helpful link for those who might not be familiar with the technology.

3D printing

"3D printing is a phrase used to describe the process of creating three dimensional objects from digital file using a materials printer, in a manner similar to printing images on paper. The term is most closely associated with additive manufacturing technology, where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material.[1] Recently the term is increasingly being used to describe all types of additive manufacturing processes, or even other types of rapid prototyping technology.

Since 2003 there has been large growth in the sale of 3D printers. Additionally, the cost of 3D printers has gone down.[2] The technology also finds use in the fields of jewelry, footwear, industrial design, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), automotive, aerospace, dental and medical industries, education, geographic information systems, civil engineering, and many others."

There is a 3D printer at my company that is used to print 3D objects from CAD mockups.  It makes it much easier to produce a prototype and evaluate design.  And it doesn't take long to see ROI vs. sending the work out to be machined.  It's also pretty amazing to watch an object being "printed" one layer at a time.  The first time I watched a part as it was printed it was like seeing a scene from a sci-fi movie from when I was a kid come to life.  It's a cool piece of technology, and depending on your business, it can be a useful tool.  

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