Yes, the reality is that 3D printing is simply a manufacturing tool, nothing more nothing less. In fact, when being compared to its subtractive manufacturing counterparts (e.g. lase cutting), and strictly to obtain a finished structure, currently traditional technologies don’t have much to feel jealous about.
Nonetheless, I want you to take a moment here and observe your surroundings…everything created by humans is made by using tools.
So you might admire the items you own because of the way they look, feel and interact with you. Yet again, you might wonder if a design detail of the monitor you currently using can be altered. Perhaps, you could have designed your desk chair more to your liking. Perhaps, now you’ve started realising that if you had the chance to influence the design process you would have taken it.
Well, the reality is that you now have this chance! Albeit work in progress, one of the strongest offerings of 3D printing is the oxymoron-sounding concept of Mass Customisation, where anyone can influence the design process. Take for example the start-up Trinckle, an online platform offering exactly this.
3D printers are now available on affordable desktop sizes, a fact that almost mimics the progression of computers, from room size machines in the ‘60s, to the pocket-size digital devices of today. Similarly, we are witnessing this transition with a plethora of 3D printers, being brought into the market in an unprecedented rate, culminating to an astonishing achievement of the manufacturing sector.
There are still a few details to be ironed out. Across the globe, groups of software and hardware developers are working to improve algorithms, innovate new machines and optimise performance. Interestingly, those are represented by a strong contingency of hobbyist, such as the RepRap community (some of whom turn out to be successful businesses, e.g. Ultimaker) and equally by giants of the tech industry (cf. HP’s 3D printer).
You see, everyone wants to be part of this mass customisation drive. To maintain the momentum of this disruptive wave, others are also now contributing. Not least 3D designers, by optimising printable structures (e.g. solidThinking) and material scientists by producing more functional parts (e.g. madeSolid). BUT perhaps the most important of all is YOU, the individual user.
Designing and making your own, is nothing new. But it seems that along the way towards mass production we gave up on our own creative skills. 3D printing is not a hype, on the contrary is a very practical tool, here to stay but most importantly give us the ability to reconnect with our inner ‘maker’. So why not seize the skill?
At 4DeltaEducation we truly believe that core to all is education. We have created an online training platform for people who want to master the latest vocational technological advances within the world of Engineering. To date, we have created courses in Computer Aided Design and 3D Printing, and we are working on more.