Custom Manufacturing

3D printing is a very interesting technology that I believeis really going to change the way that manufacturing takes place. There arequite a few methods of manufacturing in circulation right now, includingmachining, mold manufacturing, and others – but none of them work at the samelevel of 3D printing. First off, what is 3D printing?  3D printing is essentially the layer by layer creation ofproducts through laying down small layers of material. In order for thismanufacturing process to work, a design will be created by an artist or adesigner of some kind. This artist will then take care of sending the design tothe printing facility. These facilities will then plug in the design into theprinter itself, and the printer’s computer aided manufacturing system, or CAMsystem will take the model as a blueprint. This printer will then take theblueprint into account when actually producing the piece. When it actuallycomes down to producing the parts, the printer will start laying down layers ofmaterial .There are various methods in which these printers lay down material,but typically the material will be stacked in very small layers at details ashigh as 11 microns. The diameter of a human hair on average is around 40microns. Quite a few printers fall in between the 20-30 micron resolutionrange, but some offer greater detail, and others offer less. A product will beslowly built up, one layer at a time on a platform – or build tray.  One of the fascinating things about the 3D printing processis the capabilities that these machines have. The process of 3D printing allowsfor the creation of very organic shapes, various curves, and intricate centers.Because the products are created layer by layer, very detailed centers can comeabout. If someone were to use machining to create something or to createsomething by hand, there would be a huge concern about making parts with hollowcenters, where 3D printing doesn’t have to worry about this.  Another strong factor about this technology is that eachpiece is made individually. By that, I mean 3D printed pieces aren’t massproduced. Some might see this as a negative, but I view it as a positive. Partscan be created at units of 1, or 20. Typically you won’t see a part massproduced by 3D printing, but I suppose it’s possible. This means that trulycustom pieces can be manufactured. If a designer could get ahold of fewpictures of YOUR face, he or she could replicate it or use software toreplicate it into a 3D image. Your face could then be printed! Depending onwhich material you use, it could maintain all the details, as well as all thecolors. The pieces which are pulled out of printers have the possibility to betruly unique to you as an individual. Especially as some of these 3D printingcompanies are coming out with customization software, it is becoming a muchmore dominant application. Truly custom products can come about through thistechnology. 

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