When Abbey Peschel approached me about posting an article on 3D printing on A Hopeful Romantic, I was skeptical to say the least. But anyone who has an imagination can’t help but be excited about the possibilities and, as a writer, the story possibilities are endless. So here is Abbey’s post about 3D printing.
While jetpacks, hoverboards and flying cars are not yet commercially available, a new wave of technology is taking the world by storm. Imagine needing a coffee mug, a belt or a toothbrush at the last minute. Instead of getting dressed and heading to the store, how would you feel if you could simply sit down at your computer, push a button and have the object appear from a printer, completely functional and ready for use?
3D printing, once only dreamt of in cartoons, is rapidly coming to light as a fully functional technology in which users can upload their designs to create an object to be printed. A student in Texas recently used 3D printers to create a plastic gun that successfully fired a bullet. Yet, while people are fascinated by the technology itself, many people are not entirely sure why.
While the cost of 3D printers leaves consumers wondering how on Earth they will be able to afford it when they can simply go to the store and purchase an item for much cheaper, the costs of the printing have actually dropped drastically since its introduction three decades ago. Ranging in size from a microwave to a car, these printers connect to a computer to create a design by spraying hot plastic in thin layers to gradually build a solid object. Larger models may take as long as 24 hours to print, but domestic desktop printers are currently on the market that allow people to create goods in the comfort of their own homes.
Business owners may be turning an eye to 3D printing as a new marketing method as they can create custom objects based on a logo or other promotion for which they are attempting to introduce. Much like a disc jockey’s job, a 3D printer takes the ideas submitted by the user to create goods that are completely customizable. However, legal issues may arise in terms of copyright laws and other such considerations.
For designers and artists alike, 3D printing could become an essential part of the creative process. Recently, designers presented a model for a 3D printed room inspired by Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger. Creativity and collaboration are aided by this technology which could be used for grand projects like this in the future.
While false teeth and prosthetic limbs are in the process of creation, most users create smaller, more mundane items such as purses, trains, iPhone cases, jewelry and shoes. In fact, one printing company decided to create a fully functional shoe that can hold a working iPhone with compartments for iPods or other small accessories. This technology allows consumers to take custom fit measurements and add moveable parts to create a unique concept. Additionally, some Web sites allow interested individuals to purchase pre-made objects and have them shipped locally, or users can download digital files if they have access to a 3D printer at home.
While the technology has a long way to go before it becomes commercially available, we may see 3D-printed objects sooner than we will see flying cars.
Abbey Peschel is a Boston-area printing and marketing specialist.