While there have been some exciting advancements in printing, perhaps none is more impactful or more interesting than the advent of 3D printing. 3D printing technology has already made a major impact on manufacturing and production methods. Not only is it exciting, but it’s also potentially profitable, even for home users. Below are the basics you should know about 3D printing and how the technology is being used today by businesses small and large.
3D Printing - An Overview
So what is 3D printing, (a.k.a. additive manufacturing)? The technology, invented in 1984 by Charles Hull, works by using a three-dimensional digital design, which is sent to the 3D printer. The 3D printed object is created, based on the design, by using sequential layers of your material of choice (filament), heated and shaped by a laser source, layered on top of each other until the solid object is complete.
Common Uses of 3D Printing
3D printing can be a great source of revenue and educational materials. Below are some of the most effective ways businesses, educators, and hobbyists are using 3D printing technology.
Working in Tandem with Traditional Manufacturing Methods
While 3D printing has not replaced traditional manufacturing methods, like CNC machining, 3D printing already has found a strong foothold in the manufacturing industry. More and more manufacturers are implementing 3D printing to test and perfect designs and models. When used in conjunction with traditional manufacturing, stronger, more reliable parts are created. Manufacturers are also using 3D printing to “enable mass customization, increase design freedom, allow for the reduction of assembly, and serve as a cost-effective low volume production process” according to Sculpteo.
One of the most advantageous ways to businesses, hobbyists, and educational programs are utilizing 3D printing is to by creating, selling, and teaching 3D design. In the classroom, allowing students to design their own creations and then print them out with a 3D printer allows them to get first-hand experience with the 3D design and manufacturing of process.
3D Printed Models/Parts
Before implementing 3D printing into a manufacturing process, many businesses are purchasing custom-order parts from vendors and 3D print farms. Consumers are also able to purchase custom-made models and even low-cost, new build homes that are 3D printed within a day!
The market for 3D printed products is vast, and it’s still growing. One of the most significant benefits of 3D printing is that it simplifies the production process, turning homes into mini-manufacturing hubs. Online orders can easily be fulfilled with a few clicks of a button, as the 3D printer does most of the work.
Prototyping with 3D printing allows businesses and consumers to design, test, revise and create full-scale models in a matter of days instead of weeks. Rapid prototyping also aids in the visualization of new products, using 3D printed models as “functional prototypes to enable cost-efficient, real-world predictions.” With traditional manufacturing methods, prototyping may take weeks and comes with high production costs due to the manual work and expensive machines required. However, 3D printing allows businesses and consumers to quickly create physical models at a fraction of the cost.
Teaching Students & Enthusiasts How to Use 3D Printers
One of the most insightful ways 3D printing is utilized is in the classroom. Students today are eager to learn about new technology, and there is a large community of enthusiasts who also wish to learn.
Experienced users know the limitations of the instruction manuals that come with any technology, so students benefit from gaining hands-on experience and useful knowledge in this increasingly in-demand technology. The skills learned as students move from designing 3D models to making their creations come to life in the 3D print lab can be directly applied to the workforce after school.
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Printing as a Service
The market for printing as a service using 3D printers is growing more sophisticated. There are now networks like 3D Hubs and Make XYZ that offer 3D printer owners the opportunity to make money by merely listing their printer on their site. Customers can then place orders and have their designs printed as a service.
Even jewelry designers have turned to 3D printer owners to print out their designs and have them shipped to customers as a way to expand without sacrificing too much time. For independent jewelry designers and folks in a similar trade, outsourcing production to professionals with 3D printers is one of the easiest and most comfortable ways to expand without taking on extra overhead.
Find the Right 3D Printer for the Job with ImageNet
With 3D printers increasing in popularity among entrepreneurs, the ROI is growing exponentially. The advantages of getting in on rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing are incredible.
Success in this arena starts with finding the right 3D printer for the job. ImageNet has what aspiring entrepreneurs and businesses alike need to succeed in 3D printing. From 3D printers to use in the classroom, to large production 3D printers made for rapid-prototyping and printing with materials like carbon fiber and metal, our variety of printers, accessories, and materials is unmatched. Better yet, they’re conservatively priced.
Take a look at ImageNet’s impressive selection of 3D printers, from desktop printers perfect for classrooms or small businesses, to industrial and metal 3D printers capable of rapid prototyping and more! Shop at ImageNet's 3D shop, or consult with our 3D experts about how 3D printing can deliver a strong ROI for you today!