3D Printing has made it to your living room. Now that you have just got the hang of printing your documents and spreadsheets, just got the hang of turning your bad holiday snaps into framed, art gallery, worthy exhibits, 3D Printing has become accessible enough to render you stuck in a lost dimension.
Yes, 3D Printing, or additive manufacturing for the jargon lovers, is now more accessible than ever. You are now able to head down to your local electronics store and pick up a printer right next to the laser printer you picked up last year and print mock-ups of your new house, your watch to be worn on your dinner date out this evening or your tooth that went missing in last week’s basketball game.
But better still, get your local print store to do it all for your. Yes, that print store where you took your role of film five years ago and the USB stick you took after the holiday season two years ago. Although 3D Printing is now accessible to the masses, there are some technicalities that make it that little bit tougher than printing off an A4 glossy photo.
3D Printing involves the adding of layers of specific materials to output a 3D version of, well anything that has height, width and depth. Materials commonly used in building 3D models are most often plastics, metal and metal alloy powders, plaster and even paper. These materials are then layered by the printer in very thin sheets which are then layered upon once more to build up the model in three dimensions as each layer is subsequently fused with the one above and below.
Given the variety of materials than can be used when printing, almost anything can be printed and subsequently used to a point where the model can resist high temperatures, holes can be drilled into it, the model can be sanded down and electroplates even added to the model.
Unless, you are into heavy industry product development or manufacturing, most 3D Printers will not be of use or interest to you. But your local print store knows this and they have adopted layperson friendly 3D Printers that can print off your child’s next toy, a new piece of jewellery or your proud 3D art project. Color is not an issue either. Certain printers are able to add up to 24 colors to your project meaning that what is printed really can be a final product.
Although your .doc or .ppt file won’t magically print in three dimensions, your local print store also has the expertise to take your vision and create the digital file that communicates with the printer. 3D Printing really is available to you now. Whatever you can imagine can almost certainly be printed and it is about as simple as taking your film reel, your USB stick or printing at home when you involve your print store down the road. The only limitations to the next dimension are your imagination, and not speaking to the experts.