Cost effective 3D printers may create new innovators. In the past few years, 3D printing has really come to the forefront. While the technology has been around since the 70s and while industrial 3D printers have been used for years, the domestic 3D printer has been rather limited. Primarily, the cost of the desktop 3D printer and the materials have been high, restricting the ability for 3D innovators to try new things. However, with the declining costs of the 3D printer, more 3D artists are turning into innovators. For the Technology developments, it is a huge step forward.
Recycled Polymers and other materials
According to the NCBI, nearly 50% of plastics are for single-use purposes. As such, there are a great deal of discarded contents (estimates are around 25 tons for certain countries). Recycling of various plastics into polymer form allows for the 3D printers to have various color configurations, while at the same time provides a cheap material in which to print prototypes. As 3D printers rely upon heat and the additive process, the recycled polymer is ideal. Chips can be melted down within the machine and then fabricated into the 3D model.
From a recycling perspective, this greatly decreases the potential for discarded plastics. What is greater still is that the recycled polymers can be recycled yet again, as there are no real chemical additives which would compromise the integrity of the plastic from the 3D printer. Additionally, it is possible that developments could be made to allow for recycled metals, such as aluminum, to be used in 3D printers. As metal printers are available for commercial purposes, all that is needed is the implementation of the concept.
Re-visioning the existing
The low cost of the 3D Printers has already caused some major developments in the world. Prosthetic limbs are able to be catered to the person who will be wearing them. Where the wait for the limbs, in times past, was months, prints can be obtained in hours. Engine components have been developed for classic cars which no longer have parts available, thanks to the metal 3D printer. What is interesting is that a great deal of the advancements have not come from reinventing the wheel, but rather from those who have taken 3D models from sites such as CGTrader, tweaked them to serve a new purpose, and then printed the prototype.
It should be noted that most 3D printers rely upon .svg formats for their prints. When using models acquired from a third party site, it is recommended that you find one which has such a format. Should you chose to purchase a .obj or similar file, ensure that you convert the file over to .svg prior to sending it to your printer, or if possible use a program such as Autodesk Inventor which has built in exportation to the 3D printer.
Why 3D printing is catching on?
You may be wondering why a 3D printer would help to boost the tech world. Why not just use 3D software alongside analytics and then submit the dimensions to an engineer? The answer is ease of use and costs. By having the affordable desktop printers, the inventor or engineer can have a physical product that they can work the bugs out of. For example, on the screen it may look good to have a 1/16th drilled hole on a product. Yet, when printed, it may show that there is too much tension on the part attaching to that hole and so a 1/8th is needed. While it may look good on the screen, reality does tend to throw a few curveballs which need to be addressed. As a novice to invention or engineering, the designer will need to have a product/design with as little quirks as possible. By printing their design and fine tuning it, they are more apt to find success in manufacturing the product on a larger scale.
Opening Creativity to a new class
Creating 3D models is a complex process which has weighed on those who have ideas but not the education in which to become an engineer or an innovator. With the 3D printer, a person can use the software that he or she is most comfortable with, gain tutorials via the web, and create new things. There is not a requirement for college level education, no 3D degree which must be obtained, and no age restrictions. While a degree in computer animation and multimedia arts or in the gaming industry would be beneficial, a person who does not have the means to attend such a college can still obtain their dreams of creating something which could change the world.