The rise and rise of 3D printing.

3rd July, 2014

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3D printing has been grabbing public attention lately, almost as much as the printing industry itself, so we thought we'd delve a little deeper into this fascinating printing process.

For most of us, it seems a relatively new development, however 3D printing has been around and established for some years now it is only more recently that this printing technique has really boomed and started to catch everyone's attention.

This new generation of machine can produce a huge range of objects, using different materials all on the same device - items such as plastic guns, car parts and even food are being created using this method, so it is understandable that this new technology is beginning to raise some eyebrows.

I'd previously shrugged it off as the latest techy craze yet it was only when I had chance to see it in practice last year that I became quite captivated by the idea.

3dify were demonstrating their technology at the Brighton Digital Festival 2013 which was showcased as part of an installation called Break the Mould. To actually see the technology first hand was undoubtedly captivating and it certainly drew in quite a crowd.

The technology and programming involved in this process, even on this small scale is so intricate that while you stand watching the miniature copy of yourself being printed in front of your eyes you find it hard not to ask all sorts of questions - The most common of which - why is it referred to as 3D printing?
Take a look at their Vimeo video discussing the thoughts behind the installation and the involvement of 3dify.

View the documentary following the project 'Break the Mould' - an interactive 3D scanning and printing art installation. We also caught 3dify more recently at Glug Brighton - see our Vimeo of a scan in process.

Image (above) sourced - TWINKIND.

Study your home or office printer for example. If you consider that when an A4 sheet is printed on these printers, the text is not in fact staining the paper it's actually very lightly sitting on top of it.

Take that to the next step and imagine that same page being printed over and over, thousands of times, eventually, in theory, the ink would begin to build up to create a solid 3D form.
Thinking of printing in this way you can begin to get a very, very basic understanding of the use of the term 3D print. Once the object has been designed and programmed, a new specialist 3D printer can begin to build up an object, layer by tiny layer from the bottom up, with each minute part sticking together to make one solid object.

But how will it assist us?

There are many benefits to 3D print. It brings an affordable and tailored form of manufacturing to the masses - Imagine being able to build a pair of made to measure shoes in your own home on your own personal printer. It also has environmental benefits in which recycled materials can be more widely used, transportation of goods is reduced and less waste is produced.

Although heavily used in product design for many things such as jewellery or Iphone cases, more recently there have been discussions about the use of 3D printing within the construction industry. Last year we saw a Chinese production company begin to build houses with construction waste in which the 3D printer churned out 10 houses within just 24 hours.

3D printing_

This maybe an impressive turnaround however there are still regulations such as insurance, durability and safety to consider.

And it's not all good news.

Earlier in the year an article by the Guardian touched on the concerns surrounding the use of 3D printing as response to our growing population and our declining food resources. "Scientists themselves recognise that in its current state food printing is an unsatisfactory stepping stone towards a utopian future" but the "technology is developing and the idea that we have to resort to food inks to feed ourselves" is certainly a controversial and quite disturbing element of the industry.

As with most new technologies the industry build up is often years ahead of the consumer reality yet regardless of any doubters out there, the industry is growing fast and it is likely to be assisting us even more in the future. In fact just as I upload this to the blog, tweeted '3D Printing Used to Successfully Remove Previously Inoperable Tumor in 5 Year Old Boy' - it seems the possibilities are endless.

If you fancy having a look into the industry in more depth then take a look at some of the links below you will be hard pushed not to get immersed in this new world of print.

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