It seems 3D printing is making the news more and more these days. It seems to be everywhere and populating much of the latest technological advances. Still, it might not be exactly what everybody is envisioning. If you think you can download a product, make it with a CAD program, or scan an object and just print it out in your home office, this isn’t necessarily possible. Printing out 3D objects in this manner is a long way from reality. There’s a lot of technical aspects that need to be accounted for before people can just print out things at home with any amount of accuracy.
A lot of this has to do with hype and a lack of realistic reporting with it comes to 3D printing. People think of items being printed that include all the details of finished products. The fact of the matter is a lot of items printed in this fashion lack detail and don’t really feature much definition at all. They’d need to have the parts printed separately in order to ensure they’re put together properly.
The way 3D printing works is actually pretty cool. It involves putting down layers of plaster powder and infusing it with inkjet ink to give it some color. What’s interesting is a lot of people think items that have been printed out are actually made from plastic, rubber, and metal. While it’s neat that these items look so great, they’re not very useful and can’t withstand much function. They were primarily designed for looking at, not using in any meaningful sort of way.
You might have seen some items printed out that look rather complex and may even serve a function. But this is deceiving and actually not something that the at home printers are capable of. These items can form complex shapes and be forged with high quality, shiny plastics. They look great but they’ve been printed out on really expensive machines, often costing upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars. They’ve also been processed after the printing to get them in their final form and shape.
Basically, yes 3D printing could be used to cheaply manufacture parts, but people would still need to tidy up these items, smooth down rough edges, and assemble them into an actual product. That’s what a lot of the coverage about this technology fails to discuss. Yes, it’s an amazing technology, but until it progresses further and the price of the more expensive machines comes down, the human hand will still be needed to put the finishing touches on these items.