Recently, we’ve done a lot of posting about 3D printing. Just last Thursday we talked about new plans by NASA to develop a 3D printer for food, and a few weeks ago we covered an interview with the founder of MakerBot, a 3D printing company committed to commercializing the 3D printer.
Today, inspired by a recent Wired article, we’re going to cover 4 common myths and truths about 3D printing. Check out the following list:
- With 3D printing, complexity reduces cost
Unlike normal production tools (CNC machines, lathes, etc.) which make things by taking away–because they start with a solid block of metal and machine downwards–3D printers start from the ground up. Because a 3D printer works this way, the less ‘ink’ it has to use in printing an object, the cheaper it is, so in most cases, a more complex item will be cheaper to print. Status: truth.
- 3D printing is replacing traditional manufacturing
As Crucible Industrial Design notes, using a 3D printer for mass manufacturing opens up a whole new set of problems, like whether or not the materials and design will be safe, whether or not 3D printing is cost effective, and how to manage quality control. Though there’s no telling how this will change in the future, for now, 3D printing likely won’t be replacing traditional manufacturing any time soon. Status: myth.
- It’s possible to print medical parts with a 3D printer
Amazingly, one-off medical ‘parts’ are one area where 3D printing is excelling. 3D printing made the news recently when doctors printed and implanted a tracheal splint for a 20-month-old baby boy. Doctors seem to believe that 3D printers will continue to be useful in such a manner, and it looks like the recent success with the tracheal splint is only the beginning of printing medical devices. Status: truth.
- 3D prints are faster than most industrial production
While 3D printers are certainly amazing, one area where they fall behind other traditional areas of manufacturing is in speed. The Innovation Investment Journal cites speed as one of 3D printing’s biggest weaknesses, noting that, as they stand now, 3D printers often work much slower than other machines used in industrial manufacturing. Again, this could change, but for now it’s just a part of 3D printing. Status: myth.
Regardless of where it stands now, 3D printing certainly has the potential to be revolutionary (according to some, at least). One thing is for sure: 3D printing is an exciting, innovative industry, and we can’t wait to see how it is adapted and used within the next couple of years.