Technology in our lives has been continuously improving over the past few decades and a simple look at the very first computers, which were as big as your living room, compared to today’s laptop paves the way we are looking at the future. There is a device, however, which is considered by many to be as prehistoric today as it was during its creation; I am referring, of course, to the beloved printer.
Now, I would be wrong to say that there was no innovation in the field of computer printing since its invention in 1938 by Chester Carlson, who developed the concept of electrophotography, later called Xerox. For example, we had to wait until 1976 to see the first inkjet printer, and another 12 years before it was commercialized by Hewlett-Packard’s for over USD 1,000 apiece. But such innovations, especially compared with the computer itself, are relatively slow to take place.
The arrival of 3D printing
One of the very first 3D printers to be patented at the US Patent & Trademark Office was developed by Scott Crump in the 80s, though the patent itself was filed in June 1992. The concept was similar to existing 3D printers, except that the base itself was moving left and right, and up and down, while the nozzle provided altitude.
In today’s 3D printers, the base is usually fixed, while the nozzle takes care of the movements on all three axes, allowing them to create objects in three dimensions.
How does 3D printing work?
3D printing works using a concept known as Fused Depositional Modeling, or FDM for short, which translates into printing an object one layer at a time, starting from the bottom up.
3D printers used thermoplastics, in other words, plastics that melt at a certain temperature, to create such layers, usually received from a CAD software, like Blender or Studio Max. A plastic that is often used in 3D printing is ABS, or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, a material I am sure most of you are familiar with if you ever played with LEGO during your childhood.
Depending on the model, the final product is then bound together using adhesive or exposure to ultraviolet light.
What are the applications of 3D printing?
Such machines can be used in a variety of fields and certainly appeal to artists of all kinds, as it gives them the liberty of creating in the third dimension.
A field in particular that greatly benefits from 3D printing is medicine, as it allows for the creation of prostheses and even organs using specific material as a construction block. So far, we have seen 3D printed ears, hands, arms, and legs.
It is also used in medical education by reproducing specific organs that students can observe in the classrooms.
Other fields affected by this technology are car manufacturing and the aerospace industry, where it can be used to create specific parts that would otherwise be more expensive to make, using a traditional mold method.
If that was not enough, we start to see the development of houses that are 3D printed; the application for such products could help reducing homelessness and provides adequate living situations in third-world countries.
If you are ever interested in purchasing your very own 3D printer, it will cost you anywhere between THB 8,000 to THB 400,000, depending on the size and applications. But who knows? This could become an effective investment, as we see more and more 3D crafted souvenirs and other trinkets sold on websites like Amazon and Etsy.