An evolving technology over the past quarter-century, three-dimensional printing, has developed in recent years in such ways that it is able to turn science fiction into reality, creating biomedical models, implantable body parts, dental crowns, hearing aids, and even 3-D human liver tissue, all this representing innovations in the medical area.
The technology, also referred to as additive manufacturing and rapid prototyping, can print a wide range of products, including jewelry, customized eyeglass frames, plumbing, car and airplane parts fixtures, architectural models and even homes. And an example of how far can this get is a Chinese company, WinSun, which using a very large 3-D printer to make small houses which cost about $5,000 each.
Other technology innovative uses have appeared, such as printing logos on chocolate or making pizza. In the US, for instance, NASA awarded a $125,000 grant last year to a Texas company, that developed a 3-D printer to make pizza and other foods for long-duration space flights.
Items using 3-D printers are created in a process pretty much the same as the inkjet printers, with a mechanism tracking back and forth. The difference is that instead of printing ink on paper, 3-D devices apply layer after layer of plastic, metals or other materials. 3-D printers build layers of material to shape an object, using a computer-aided-design or CAD file.
Industry reports, estimated that the 3-D printing market of all products and services worldwide totaled $3.07 billion in 2013. That means a 34.9 percent over 2012, representing the highest growth rate in 17 years. Forecasts related to growth are estimated to $7 billion in 2016 and $21 billion by 2020.
Having a vast area of applications, low-cost 3-D printer made the technology accessible to entrepreneurs, hobbyists and schools. Sales of printers costing less than $5,000 increased slightly more than 100 percent in 2013 from the previous year.
Printing companies offering 3D solutions are continuously developing in the US and as the 3D printing market has grown, these businesses follow the same pattern. Innovation emerges out of technology and materials. For instance, CRP USA is equipped with a new laser sintering manufacturing machines for 3D printing service with windform materials, which they have created. The company aims at strengthening their US presence by providing the market a state-of-the-art 3D printing service through the use of these materials.
From the study-research of R&D department of CRP Technology and international market needs, Windform composite SLS materials were created. Based on market requests R&D department, develops new materials and services, through continuous innovation. The purpose is to achieve maximum satisfaction in service, and give the highest value for the final customers. Thus, Windform turns into the ideal composite SLS material able to satisfy the needs of international market of 3D Printing.
By serving underserved markets and empowering 3D modelers to build businesses, 3D printing is liberating design from the constraints of traditional manufacturing. And perhaps the most outstanding result is lowering the barrier to entry to start a creative business.
In the begining, printers were designed to make only one-off prototypes, not creating finished custom goods at scale. Historically, this became one of the biggest challenges in manufacturing finished products with the help of 3D. Companies are continuously working to improve 3D printers and processes to create products higher in quality and allow true mass customization. Projects demand to innovate even faster, and companies invest in breakthrough improvements in 3D printing that will directly benefit the community on a daily basis.
Such improvements include optimizing each 3D printing run, new methods to break out individual products from a 3D print build of up to 1,000 parts, and enhancements in dyeing processes. All these innovations will enable lowering the cost of 3D printing but not without setting a higher standard for quality, consistency, and speed.
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