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Understanding the Main Uses of 3D Printing

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M1 Assessment

List some of the major areas and applications for 3D scanning and 3D printing. How could these application change lives? What effect could they have on the economy? One of the most important applications for 3D printing is that of its use in the medical field. Lab technicians are now able to create prosthetic limbs and body parts for patients in need of these. 3D printing also allows medical experts to create internal body parts such as knee replacements that are identical to the old knee. CT scans can be adapted into 3D online models and then be printed into a physical knee replacement. 3D scanning and printing technology used in this way makes it faster and cheaper for patients to receive necessary prosthetics and body part replacements. Other major applications are those in the automotive industry, aircraft, electronics and replacement parts industries. Using 3D printing these industries are often able to produce cheaper products much faster than with traditional methods. In the future this industry can have a largely positive effect on the economy allowing companies to sell products for a much lower cost thus opening up their product to a significantly larger population of consumers. With more people financially able to purchase products there will be a large increase of money circulating in the economy. On the other hand if 3D technology continues to increase in ease it will be possible for consumers to simply buy a printer for themselves, and produce their own necessary products such as clothes.

List at least three main ways that the 3D printing industry is still evolving and describe how these ways impact consumers. According to the Berman article, 3D printing is a ‘disruptive’ industry-address this concept in your answer.

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Content- It is necessary before printing to have a model to print. Many online companies provide consumer and manufacturers with models that they can download and use for printing. This industry is still largely growing with more models being uploaded everyday. It is also possible for individuals to create their own models using 3D scanning and photo compiling software.

Cost- Overall, the cost of 3D printing is going down. However, the filaments and raw materials used in printing are still very expensive as well as the printers themselves. Desktop models for personal use range in the thousands of dollars while high-end industrial printers can cost up to $500,000. As manufacturers continue to test new models and develop different products the cost of this technology will continue to decrease. This is part of what makes this technology a “disruptive” one as stated in the Berman article. 3D printing is shaking things up and making it possible for products to be produces and sold at much lower costs. This is causing many industries to adapt and change with this new technology or face extinction.

Skills- As with any growing technology there is a specific set of skills and knowledge necessary for working with and developing 3D printers, software and materials. Many private 3D printing users posses a limited amount of these necessary skills and therefor cannot use the printers to their full potential. It is important to continue to teach future consumer and developers about this technology so that it can continue to grow and be adapted for other purposes. Again this is part of what makes this a “disruptive” technology. The quickly developing 3D technology has made it necessary for professionals such as engineers, scientists, medical technicians and many others to learn a new set of skills that was not necessary only a few years ago.

Discuss growth potential for consumer market 3D printing and contrast this with professional or industrial 3D printing market developments.

Consumer 3D printing is a quickly growing market. Development in this field over the past few years has risen dramatically. Desktop printers that cost ten of thousands of dollars ten years ago now cost in the low thousands, there are even printers that cost less than one thousand dollars. However, even though the cost for consumer printers is decreasing dramatically many potential consumers are simply uneducated in the field and therefor have no use for these machines. Another problem is that the software that goes along with these machines can be somewhat complicated and requires some technical knowledge. As the printers and software become cheaper and easier to use consumer demand and access will increase dramatically. The industrial printer market is on the rise as well, possibly even faster than the consumer market. Although the higher end industrial printers are far more expensive than the desktop models, they have significantly larger possibilities for models and applications. Engineers, designers, artists and medical professionals have developed extensive use for the scanners and printers, these uses continue to grow everyday. As industry professionals continue experiment with this technology the market will increase rapidly. The 3D printing industry appears to be something far greater than a technological fad, with industry professional finding application from aircraft to biological growth applications. Although the consumer market is not growing as quickly the industrial market will continue to push this technology further and further every day.

Briefly describe the workflow and items needed for 3D printing. 3D printing often begins by identifying a need for a product; we will use a broken watch gear as an example. Once the need for the new watch part is identified the customer can search for a model of watch gear that fits the one in need. The consumer can then download the software for this model. The consumer then will need to purchase the necessary raw materials or filaments to print the gear. The consumer can then load his or her printer with the appropriate materials and use the printing software to send the downloaded model to the printer where it will be 3d printed.

What is meant by a content provider? List at least three sources for the content as discussed in lecture/readings or from your research.

Content providers are companies that provide consumers and industry professionals with 3D model data. Providers are generally associated with large-scale 3D printing and software companies often. These companies allow private consumers and industry professionals to download or purchase 3D model software that they can then use to print their desired product. One of these providers is Makerbot’s Thingiverse which already has over 30 models associated with the Apple Watch, which was available for purchase only three weeks ago. Another provider, Shapeways allows consumers to purchase 3D printed items that range from small trinkets and figurines to full sized lamps and candles holders. Shapeways also allows designers to upload their models and sell 3D printed items. Finally, cubify.com is a website that sells Cube brand 3D printers, scanners and software. The website also allows consumers to download, upload and explore 3D print models and products.

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