Want new shoes? – I print you some.

25 May

We can almost call it Bergfest as we are working on our 5th post of the current semester. Accordingly, I can resume that my field of interest has taken on an interesting form: Having been convinced about sticking to anything that is green (this might have been an act of coloring any possible, negative effect of information technologies), I suddenly found myself in the middle of a new discussion: Viral marketing. Let me tell you, this truly meant a lot considering marketing not really being of any interest to me. Even better, I actually had fun writing this blog post.

So there I was, stuck between the nostalgic and the experimental student which meant staying green or moving on. For this, I thank the news for the headline Trade Fair: LASER World of Photonics 2011 and the so- called 3D printer for having caught my attention. Let’s step into something innovative and futuristic!

A printer which doesn’t know limits

Three-dimensional printing has been around for a while, but it was just until recently that the general consumer has a chance to buy or build printers themselves. Those 3D printers act in a way that they convert a virtual 3D model into a physical object. If you decide to design a car of complex structure and various features, you first construct a virtual model via a CAD program and next send a print command to the respective printer. Such 3D printer will then build up a three dimensional object. How does the printing process work? I am certainly not a science geek but my basic knowledge reaches as far to mention two different groups of printing techniques. You either consider:

(a) Subtractive groups that remove material or,

(b) additive groups that successively print cross- sectional slides on top of the previous by using certain types of liquids or softening material.

If you cannot image how this looks like you might watch the following video about the printed flute by Amit Zoran.

Toy or Business

First of all, many garage boffins enjoy the unlimited possibilities of those printers and try to be even more creative and unique in the design of their projects. These remarkably things include medical implants, jewellery, solid- state batteries and customised mobile phones.

Additionally, three dimensional objects can very well serve for business purpose. For the last decades, firms had mostly created prototypes on computers before they embarked on the expensive business of mass production. As printers have become more capable, they are now also used to construct final products as well. According to Terry Wohler, “more than 20% of the output of 3D printers is now final products rather than prototypes. This will rise to 50% in 2020.” As we are all familiar with economical decision behaviour, the reason for producing on printers is purely a matter of costs. The production process requires less assembly costs and raw material. One should also keep in mind that printers can work 24/7.

Furthermore, we can observe an interesting shift from mass production towards customisation. In “The printed world“, published by The Economist, it is stated that “in a world where economies of scale do not matter anymore, mass- manufacturing identical items may not be necessary or appropriate, especially as 3D printing allows for a great deal of customisation.”

How would this translate for companies?

More and more companies as EADS enter the new industry. Market entry is facilitated by not needing to finance factories anymore. Firms also believe in lighter, less costly and more accurate fabricated parts. If printing machines provide a broader range on material and function, it will soon be possible to print cars or an entire wing of an airliner.

Still, The Economist raises a few questions that concern the question of intellectual property and the need of outsourcing. At this, local and easy three- dimensional printing can pose a threat to the logistics firm’s business.

I think, however, that three dimensional printers offer incredible possibilities that haven’t yet been fully discovered. As for now, I can barely imagine how far this industrial revolution will go, but I am more than eager to know about its process and full potential.


3 Responses to “Want new shoes? – I print you some.”

  1. sasha1989 May 25, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    Hi Nadja,
    Thank you for your blog post. I found it very interesting and informative. I liked the way you described how this printer works. Actually, it is hard to explain because it’s so technical and boring 🙂 But you did it very well.
    I watched the video and I have to say that it was useful.
    I got curiouse about this topic and checked the internet.
    this t what i found:
    You can find there advantages of 3D printing as well as much of other information.
    Otherwise, well done!

  2. PhilBart May 25, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    Hey nadja,
    awesome post! An extraordinarily interesting and fascinating topic. The structure is perfect and the sub headings work greatly at leading the reader through your post. I love that there are so many good and reliable links providing further information and also include a paragraph which questions the whole thing which implies you have a professional view on it and not only see the advantages.
    Great job on this one!
    Bergfest, juchee!;)

  3. Iris Ng May 25, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    Hey nice post! I was attracted by the interesting heading actually, and when I started reading I really enjoyed what I saw, because it was something new and refreshing.

    I have never heard of 3D printers before, and when I saw the video I was simply in awe. Amazing! If I were to design something, it would be interesting to see my creation come to life right in front of my eyes.

    Thank you for the insightful post! 🙂

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