In the current technology market there seems to be an increasing demand for 3D printing technologies, logically so. 3D printing denotes a method of manufacturing where a three-dimensional object is in essence ‘printed’ or manufactured by layering coat after coat of a particular material. Also known as “additive manufacturing,” or AM. AM is considered as the hub of manufacturing technology, which incorporates 3-D printing. 3D printing in recent years has made it much more easier to produce intricate or complex objects. This has allowed for a boom in entrepreneurship in addition to boosting business models for industries. Over the years the prices for 3D printing have gone down and now it has been projected that 3D printing will soon be affordable enough to have at the tips of one’s fingers, right at home!
Interestingly, you can see for yourself several of the fundamental principles that AM stands for in caves; over the time span of thousands of years, water that is dripping forms layers and layers of mineral or inorganic deposits, these minerals then collect together to create stalactites and stalagmites. However, contrary to these stunning natural formations on caves, 3-D printing is much quicker and trails a determined plan that is stipulated by computer software. The computer guides the 3-D printer to insert each new layer as an accurate cross-section of the final expected object.
3-D printing and additive manufacturing in particular continue to advance at a speedy pace. Technology that initially began as a method to construct fast prototypes has now become a means of producing products for a vast line of work including the dental, medical, automotive and aerospace industries. 3-D printing is also being used in the furniture and toy manufacturing world, the fashion and art world, constantly reaching new heights. In recent years, a lot of research has been done in regards to what these technologies have the impending potential to bring to the market in terms of technological advancement.
Rapid Prototyping and the Market
Under 3D printing, we have rapid prototyping. In manufacturing. Rapid prototyping is a method that is used to generate a part of an object or a three-dimensional model. Not only does rapid prototyping offer a 3D image for digitally made items, it can also be used to check the competence of part of an object or part of the product design, before being mass-produced in larger amounts. This form of testing may have more to do with the size or shape of a design, instead of its durability or strength, because the prototype may not be built from a similar material to that of the final product. Most prototypes today are frequently fashioned with technology that is additive layer manufacturing, as has been defined above as 3D printing.
The prototyping industry has come quite far since the creation of rapid prototyping back in the 1970s and 1980s. This is due to the continuous decreasing rates for 3d printers (in price), over the years added to a greater amount of complex CAD software, not to mention, the limitless surge of hardware processing power as well as investment capital backing all of this. Nowadays, the more well known rapid prototyping techniques such as 3DP- three-dimensional printing, SLS- selective laser sintering, or SLA- stereo lithography apparatus are no longer considered as common in conventionally renowned industries for rapid prototyping, whether it be the automotive or aerospace industries. Rapid prototyping tools have a rising recognition in the recently popular sectors such as solar energy, where it is projected that printed solar cells may potentially provide electrical power to a staggering 1.3 billion people living in developing countries!
When it comes to the food industry, rapid prototyping the different packaging options for food and beverage prior to going into mass production is not seen as frequently as it is in the aerospace and automotive industries. But concurring with experts, it’s been said that companies and enterprises are catching up very quickly. It is quite shocking yet exciting, to say the least, when we see how fast and financially competitive it is to rapid prototype a food package rather than sticking to traditional methods. With the use of better quality commercial 3d printers, companies can easily create prototypes that are difficult to distinguish from real packaging.
Initially rapid prototyping was used by large corporations only, due to the financial demands. Doubts of course existed regarding its effectiveness, however with prices decreasing and a growing knowledge of how prototypes can be used efficiently and effectively, there has been a wider adoption of rapid prototyping across several industries, some of which have already been cited. Needless to mention, prototyping quality has also improved considerably within the span of a mere decade, making it a lucrative option for many industries, companies, entrepreneurs and consumers alike.
The future of 3D printing and rapid prototyping tools looks optimistic. We are yet to see what new products will be introduced to the market as a result of this huge advancement.
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