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“Do you realise by owning a 3D printer we are reclaiming the manufacturing process” Howard Wolowitz said. Raj replied “…I think this thing was made in China”. Fans of the popular US sitcom The Big Bang Theory may recall this episode where Howard and Raj purchased a $5,000 3D printer in 2013. Since then 3D printing has advanced in terms of media attention, acceptance and price.
Some argue that eventually it is expected to become part of the furniture in every home. In the short term it is expected that forward thinking SME’s will exploit this technology. The manufacturing process will not disappear overnight, not until 3D printing becomes an economical option. The question must be asked is 3D printing poised to make a tangible impact in the digital sphere?
Advocates argue that traditional paper and ink printers are a thing of the past and that the future lies in the same layering process to create a 3D object through a thin successive layering of material. Capturing the creative populations’ imagination, 3D printing can create anything from human organs to manufacturing cakes.
NASA Astronaut Barry Wilmore with the first ever 3D-printed item in space.
There is significant scope in 3D printing through several industries. An example being the food industry that allows manufacturers to perfectly structure their product using 3D food processors. In addition processors in the market can range from £350 to £1,500.
The beauty of 3D printing is the capacity it has to push the boundaries. 3D bio-printers have created the first living organ, it uses stem cells as “ink” from fat tissue in the same way that water and dry powder would to create confectionary products.
Sceptics argue that 3D printing will have the same negative reception as the 3D TV. To an extent it can be argued that there is a great deal of hype around the 3D printer, as is often the case with innovative technology, progress in the market can be short term. However with organisations like NASA, who in 2014 tried and tested the first zero gravity 3D printer, using this technology it surely has a place in our digital future.
3D printing has come a long way since Howard Wolowitz claimed to be reclaiming the manufacturing process in 2013. This year will bring a great insight into the extent to which 3D printing will become part of the digital mainstream. Eventually when issues such as affordability and accessibility are ironed out, 3D printing could change the nature of commerce.
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