We believe that the question should never be ‘what can you 3D print?’, rather one should ask, ‘What can’t you 3D print?’ in today’s world. As the world moves forward with rapid prototyping and 3D printing, we are seeing the technology to become more efficient, practical and budget friendly as a solution for developing everyday consumer goods. Along with this progress, humanity will begin to witness a wide range of materials being 3D printed. These materials include ceramics, metals, and plastics that have the potential to completely transform the manner in which corporations sell them and reduce the time to make these products.
This is a future envisioned by Tracy Hazzard like much other 3D printing and rapid prototyping experts, enthusiasts and developers. She and her husband Tom Hazzard’s 3D printing company Hazz Designs has created over 250 products, generating revenue of 1 billion dollars from their retail level clients. As an entrepreneurial couple, their business is soaring. The Hazzards, therefore, believe that 3D printing and rapid prototyping are going to change how businesses operate as a whole.
Not just biomaterials, airplane parts or advanced medical research; 3D printing is also stepping up its game by producing food products and fashionable outfits. Hence, a new kind of manufacturing is seeping into today’s industries.
3D Printing Your Food
Nowadays, many bakeries out there produce amazingly well designed customized and elaborate cakes complete with fondant, sugar, and gum paste intricacies. Therefore, this is definitely a highly labor intensive job that requires expert level skills on every level- from conceptualization to production to the final presentation of the finished cake. At a situation where the demand is high, the founder of the company definitely does not have the time to personally garnish and decorate that goes out of the doors of the bakery.
In such a situation, a 3D sugar printer comes to the rescue. With this technology, the bakers can download different templates of sugar decoration and even create their own designs to be produced on cakes. Not only does this save time and cost, it also helps create something that is unique to the business and helps bakeries break out of the existing handcrafted cake competitions. Instead of purchasing sugar designs from other people, you can make your own designs in-house.
Tracy Hazzard believes that 3D printing is all about customization, as more and more business owners are being given a chance to produce something unique and localized to their business.
Accessories and Wearables
Shoes and clothes? Definitely.
Even the products that are worn by us on a daily basis are slowly being incorporated in the rapid prototyping production lineup. Sports gear giants such as Nike and Adidas have already created customized shoes for athletes that can enhance performance and provide the optimum level of comfort. A San Diego-based footwear company called Feetz too prints shoes that are the exact measurements as that of the customer’s feet. The entire shoe is 3D printed, from start to finish. The customers are to download an app through which they can enter the measurements of their feet to be sent to the company. An on-demand service for shoe design like this will begin to reduce cost on the number of shoes to be produced. This also happens to reduce the carbon footprint that we leave behind, which is great news for the environment. It is to be mentioned that some plastics used for making shoes take thousands of years to decompose.
According to Tom, companies are getting the ability to express themselves better, thanks to rapid prototyping and 3D printing. They are getting a low-cost option to develop the products that the clients exactly and entirely how they want. Wearables other than shoes are also making a huge, 3D statement and entering the personalized method of 3D production. A company known as OwnPhones has started a Kickstarter campaign where they are asking for funds for their custom fit and 3D printed earbuds. Some dental companies too are beginning to print out custom, invisible braces fitted for each patient. In future, we can expect to see more and more companies offer similar solutions to customers who demand higher levels of customization. Gone will be the days of ‘one size fits all’!
Estimation and Innovation
It is no surprise that the creation and inception of a new product can prove to be difficult. There is definitely a lot of time, effort and cost involved that can often burn through a lot of iterations on the way to create the right prototype. The hassle does not end right there. Once the desired prototype is achieved, a company has to start mass producing them on a humungous scale. If the firm does not have the correct insight on exactly how much they are going to sell, this mass production method can make them incur a heavy loss. This is especially true for perishable products; the waste of resources can be huge and unforeseen.
Tracy states that it was a shot in the dark before 3D printing was introduced when it was the question of making estimates about a new product. However, 3D printing and rapid prototyping offer a viable solution through which companies can test the waters without going into mass production at once.
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