Desktop 3D Printing Space
Interestingly enough, the desktop space for 3D printing or rapid prototyping has become quite significant in the eyes of many in the last one year, especially that of engineers. As manufacturers move the focus from consumers towards more industrial and professional users, this desktop space was bound to be noted. Technology has proven that it might not be quite ready to generate goods for consumers for each and every household or it could be that households just aren’t ready yet for rapid prototyping services for their homes. Those who are directly involved in the industry however, know that rapid prototyping which is low-cost is still termed as a very powerful technology. 3D printing, if not intended to fabricate goods for the house, is there to use for early designing and in particular cases, for short run manufacturing, depending on what the user intends.
MakerBot 3D Printers
It is intriguing to make note of how the distance from a designer to getting the idea to the 3D printer affects the complete design workflow. Those who have their own desktop 3D printers are probably well aware regarding the satisfaction one gets from watching a material print and materialize right in front of you. This can have a huge effect on the quality of work as well.
At the headquarters of MakerBot, designer to rapid prototyping ratio is 1:1. For one of their engineers, Palmer, this was a cause of a huge shift in his approach and design. According to Palmer, in his former job a few years back, he had access to all kinds of gear for rapid prototyping. His main challenge while working on a design was to ensure it was being evolved, work had to be done rapidly.
Palmer made note of how when the equipment for rapid prototyping is at a distance from the hands of someone who is away from the whole design process, the iterative process faces a slowdown or lag. The time needed to see a CAD model acknowledged physically could take hours if it is performed in an independent lab in-house and perhaps even weeks if undertaken by an external service.
Palmer suggested however, that the closer or nearer a printer is to the actual designer, the sooner a concept or idea could be iterated. This realization came to him once he joined MakerBot and started working with a framework of 3D printers that were called MakerBot Replicator 2. These printers were in fact sitting just behind him during the design progression. Palmer further stated that he felt comfort at being able to turn around, pause for a bit, dig in while the print was around 15% percent complete and just touch one small part of the design that he was entranced by, then he could decide to either destroy the print or keep going with it. Such an opportunity of intervention was held as unique and special for Palmer.
This aptitude to check a physical concept turns out to be significant when the printer is shifted from behind the designer onto another desk in front of the designer. For this reason, every individual working in Palmer’s department has a MakerBot 3D printer located on their desk, right in front of them.
With his specialized 3D printer, initially Palmer was not sure what he would do with it, other than the personal projects that he would be working on. Then he realized the possible strengths the MakeBot 3D printer had for professional usage. Slowly, Palmer got comfortable with the lesser build volumes. Focusing on one piece at a time led to bigger projects being completed. He now often finds himself working on huge products. He portions out a piece that he might be curious about and prints that segment. Over time, he gets good at aspects such as orientation to optimization in order to exclude any need for side help or supports. Of course these projects have led to a good name being established for the firm as a whole; something small led to huge accomplishments.
Palmer mentioned how with the making of new products, current products are also being used. With everyone having a printer at their disposal, the engineers are interacting more directly compared to before. Through the use of 3D printers at closer proximities, the software and hardware teams are also able to give feedback to each other. Unique opportunities arise through their lines of work.
The design work is not done on MakerBot printers only, rather, desktop 3D printers have a role to play in the initial steps of design. More advanced systems are made use of later on in the design process. More advanced 3D printers are used later on in order to print the bigger parts.
Even though the 1:1 access to 3D printers is becoming more common these days in firms and the direction for 3D printer access seems to be headed in such a way, it will still more than likely take time for a more direct 1:1 standard to fully take over or prove itself successful.
Even though consumers have not yet adopted a 3D printer as a design tool to be used at home, the technology remains evidently indispensable. When a business is already considering 3D printers as a method to iterate designs, it seems quite a natural pick to purchase systems that are low-cost to test physical designs proximately.
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