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Is 3D Printing Shaking Up Production?

Sep 11, 2017


Ideas that we would only see in movies are quickly becoming reality. Imagine what the shopping experience will be like in a hundred years. Will we be able to virtually try on clothes through a hologram of ourselves? Will we pick what we want to have it instantly 3D printed in the store for our purchase? With how fast technology is advancing, you never know what could be possible down the road; especially with 3D printing.

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, uses stereolithography to make three dimensional, tangible objects using digital data. This method invented by Charles Hull in 1984 formed a foundation for 3D printing and made a huge impact on inventors. As explained by RedShift, “this new technology was big news to inventors, who could now theoretically prototype and test their designs without having to make a huge upfront investment in manufacturing.” Once this discovery was made, 3D printing evolved and over 30 years, advanced to the point where its uses became more mainstream in the manufacturing industry.

Today, 3D printing is being used more in manufacturing for both prototyping and mass production. Rich Smith at Forbes published an article in 2015 about how 3D printing is changing the process of manufacturing. Smith pointed out that for low volume production, 3D printing might save companies money in the long run. And the benefits of mass customization are unparalleled.

“Until recently, if you needed to have your knee replaced, a nurse would bring a box directly into the operating room and the doctor would select one of the five possible knee designs that she felt most resembled your knee. Today, your actual knee is scanned and a perfect replica is printed and ready for you prior to surgery.” -Rich Smith at Forbes

3D printing introduces a lot of opportunities to manufacturers and consumers. It makes customer specific production easily possible, potentially at a fraction of the cost and effort. This could really shake up the manufacturing industry.

As far as 3D printed clothing, there are a lot of speed bumps to get over before it can become widespread. Fashion trio threeASFOUR has taken on this project and their 3D printed designs have been featured on the runway and in articles like “The Shattering Truth of 3D-Printed Clothing”. This article in Wired pointed out that “because 3D printers build objects by depositing layers of melted plastic one on top of the next, the layers fuse together in a manner wholly unlike the way fibers become fabric.” ThreeASFOUR, along with others, have been tackling this issue and are continuing to find a solution. Until then we will have to hang onto the tradition of buying our clothes off the rack.