By Bryan Griffith
Technology is advancing and it’s going faster than ever. Our transition into the digital age has started a new tidal wave of information and technology and it’s reaching exponential rates. What does this mean? Well for starters it means we are going to be seeing new technology entering the market at faster rates and for cheaper prices. We can do things today that would look like a magic trick only 30 years ago. One of the greatest paradigm shifts that this new wave has inspired is an innovative and futuristic technology called 3D printing.
Like the name insinuates, 3D printing is the process of “printing” 3-dimensional objects. 3D printing is accomplished mainly by the use of computers who carve out or remove a material layer by layer until the object is completed. To put it in simpler terms, think about a modern printer. When you print out one sheet of paper, what the computer is doing is copying the image from the computer and implanting it on the sheet. What the 3D printer does is the same process except instead of just printing one sheet, it prints out thousands of sheets on top of one another until the wanted shape becomes a reality. Because of the sophistication of computers today, the printed objects can be copied with an error of less then 100 microns. (That’s less than the width of a human hair!) The copies as a result can be as simple or as complex as needed. It can have moving parts, different colors, and many things that one has a preference for. In the near future the applications will extend to biological and electronic components.
I can imagine a future where everything is printed; in fact I see a day when consumers can purchase their very own 3D printers without needing large space or a large wallet. The next thing I hope is to be able to print out our favorite foods, but that may cause some legal issues. But I believe this technology should be implemented at all scales of our society. We should turn to this technology to construct anything of importance from our skyscrapers to simple tools. 3D printing will also open new opportunities for engineers, designers and developers. Also this is a game changer in the manufacturing field since products can be made at cheaper costs, without the need for expensive labor, safer work environments, faster production, and with more accuracy and higher quality.
The applications for this technology are endless. Imagine what you could make if you had a printer that could make any object you wanted. All you need is a digital copy of your item, which is easily done with a scanner. Once you have that you’re on your way to making your object. Do you have anything in mind? Here are a few examples of how this technology has already been put to the test. Now remember this is only 2012, and we are about to hit an exponential explosion of technology so everything you see will be outdated soon enough.