By now, 3D printing is ubiquitous enough that most people have heard of it. It’s also possible, and not overly cost-prohibitive, to actually own a 3D printer, as many are now below the $1,000 mark. If you, like most people, don’t own one, you can order 3D printed objects through sites like shapeways.com.
A lot of universities have one in the engineering department or another related department and will sometimes print things as a demonstration. Check out your local college to see if they have any relevant seminars. For those who live in Portland, PSU has a 3D printing machine in their Electronics Prototyping Lab. Portland Community College also had a workshop on 3D printing in spring of 2014, and hopefully will again, so keep an eye out.
What’s so neat about 3D printing is that it’s not limited to just printing plastic objects, however neat and functional these might be. The technology can also be used for printing makeup, food art, fashion, or even medical use, like synthetic body parts or implants. 3D printing’s possible (and current) medical applications could turn out to be key to future healthcare, and may even extend a person’s life where before it couldn’t be done.
One product that I think is really fun is the 3D printing pen. It quickly heats and cools material so that you can draw designs in the air. If you’ve ever wielded a hot glue gun, it’s like that, but way better. This is only one example of the various ways in which 3D printing technology has or will emerge and become more accessible.
A drawback to 3D printing is that it often takes a very long time. You know how sometimes your home printer might take five minutes to print off one page in color? You know that frustrated feeling you get? Yeah. This slowness also means that it’s not the ideal method for mass-producing products yet, although I imagine it will become so in time as the technology improves.
Kickstarter has also been a prime place for 3D printing to become known in the public eye. 3D printing can be a great way to produce your product, and it’s likely your product will be desired because it’s 3D printed. If you want to delve deeper into the topic of Kickstarter, check out a blog we wrote on the subject.
It’s exciting to think of what will come in the next few years, and the possibility of every household being able to own a 3D printer is an exciting prospect. Every day, people are working on ways to get printers more affordable, efficient, and able to use a greater variety of materials.