What it is: 3D printing can create custom products with little waste.
The way most products are built is wasteful. Take a chunk of wood, carve away the chunks you don’t need and by the time you’re done, you have a piece of furniture. In the meantime, a good chunk off the wood is thrown away, suitable for burning and little else.
That’s not how 3D printing works. With a 3D printer, you constantly add new materials rather than subtract. This allows you to build items one layer at a time with no waste whatsoever. In the old days, you had to mass produce items to make it worth manufacturing. With 3D printers, you can afford to make a single item because making one item is no more expensive than making a thousand identical items.
If you’re watching the Super Bowl, look Thomas Davis of the Carolina Panthers. Thomas broke his arm so a company created a custom brace to protect his arm and allow him to play. Naturally they used a 3D printer to make the brace.
Scott Perone of 3D Elite, a manufacturer of 3D-printed braces and casts for athletes, collaborated with Whiteclouds on the project. “Thomas Davis is already the ‘bionic man’ in our book,” Perone said in a release. “This personalized 3D brace lined with Poron XRD makes him a bit more indestructible.” Poron XRD is a soft, flexible material designed to absorb shocks and protect from impacts.
While 3D printed braces work for athletes, they can also work for the ordinary citizen once costs come down further. Eventually a 3D printer will become a commonplace item in every home like a microwave oven or a freezer. When you need to make something, you can just make it yourself with your own 3D printer.
They already have 3D printers that can manufacture plastic items but soon they’ll have home 3D printers that can create items out of metal, wood, or a combination of different materials. This would allow a 3D printer to create a toy car where the body is plastic but the axles are metal. When a 3D printer can work flawlessly as an inkjet or laser printer of today, and mix different materials and colors, that’s when the 3D printer revolution will really start to take off and people will want one. The moment you start seeing 3D printers on sale in Costco or Wal-Mart, that’s when you know they’ll have become commonplace.
3D printers are the future so if you want to get ahead of technology, start learning more about 3D printers today. Start out with an inexpensive one and get used to how they work. Most likely tomorrow’s 3D printers will be vastly improved, but the more you know about 3D printers today, the better off you’ll be tomorrow in much the same way that people who knew about using dot-matrix printers had much less trouble using inkjet and laser printers when those came out.
Watch the Super Bowl and see how well Thomas Davis’s 3D printed brace protects his arm. You may be surprised that someone can play a physical game like football and not injure a broken arm.