The Design Division

Will 3D Printing Shake Up The World?

3D Printing is becoming much more commonplace with many industry experts claiming that it will be a “gamechanger” for those in the printing industry. In this blog we ask, what will the impact of 3D printing be, and is it ready to shake up the world?

How many times have you read ‘This product will be a real game changer!’ ‘This wonder doo-dah will change the world!’ ‘It’s revolutionary’ etc etc etc? Usually, ‘it’ turns out to be decidedly underwhelming. The world still goes on spinning on the same axis, while the 8.40 from Southport arrives much as normal.

However, all that said, 3D printing??!! In other words, not the usual arrangement of ink, images and words on the flat, definitely 2D piece of A4 that you’re used to seeing stuttering out of the printer on your desk? Rather, a 3D object that can range from jewellery to chess pieces to even food?

Sounds revolutionary enough? I should say so! And this one is now poised to change the world. That is, it would be, if the US Congress would get its act together and make a key judgement. Established manufacturers are getting protective about the user-generated sites that have sprung up online, and have claimed that their intellectual property is being violated. So don’t expect a verdict on this any time soon.

On our side of the pond, however, there are more positive developments. Indeed, one well-known supermarket chain is even opening booths offering 3D printing, much like those we’ve been using for generations to have our passport photographs taken. It seems the ‘shelfie’ is poised to take over from the selfie, with a scanner taking just 12 seconds to record your face and body features, then transpose them onto a ceramic model. The result is a sort of mini-me to put on your mum’s mantelpiece instead of the usual cheesy school photo. A revolution of sorts, I suppose!

Of course, there are more serious applications for 3D printing in commerce and industry. The process first appeared back in the 1980’s, with Z Corporation trademarking 3d printing in 1995, using a process involving inkjet deposition of liquid binder on powder. The industrial take-off really started at the turn of the 21st century, and 3D printing is now used in every sector from automotive to biotech, aerospace engineering to dentistry, metalworking to medical. The global market was estimated to be worth a cool $2.2 billion in 2012, up a whopping 29% on the previous year.

Mass domestic use of 3D printing is now poised for big things too, aided by open source software sites such as RepRa. It’s speculated that homeowners could save a fortune on common household products.

Interesting? For more information on this and all printing issues, call 0845 230 4810.