An article in MIT’s Technology Review, “ Why 3D Printing Will Go the Way of Virtual Reality,” speaks to the hype surrounding 3D printers today.
While there’s a lot of understandable excitement over 3D printers for consumer use, I have to agree with the author that the vision of the Star Trek-like home replicator, which produces professional-grade consumer products or parts will remain a futuristic dream for some time.
Before we have replicators in our homes, we’ll likely see a step where 3D printing businesses will act like a Kinko’s. They will produce individual replacement parts or eventually entire assembled products developed by manufacturers. The service would download a part's or product’s design file from the manufacturer for a fee, build it for you and call you when it’s ready.
The author is right about the applications presently having the biggest impact coming from the manufacturing industry (i.e. 3D printer use by design and manufacturing engineers). Of the manufacturers in the Fortune 500, it’s a good bet most supplement design and manufacturing processes with 3D printing (additive manufacturing) systems. The 3D printing industry is only about 25 years old, but it is already changing the face of manufacturing.
It is the industrial installations of 3D printers across all industries, like aerospace, consumer goods, automotive and others that will make the biggest impact for the foreseeable future.
Watch this video to see how Acist Medical Systems uses FDM 3D printing.
Access more than 100 3D printing case studies on Stratasys.com.