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By Jonathan Juursema (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
When digital fabrication allows innovators to create their imagined products by themselves, a new dimension of production arises with the capacity that will change the way of the world’s manufacturing completely.
The digital fabrication on everyone’s lips is 3D printing, a process of making a physical object from a computer generated 3D model. The technology is not a new thing at all. Charles W. (Chuck) Hull invented the first 3D printer in 1984 for 3D Systems Corporation. Since then, 3D printers have been developing and digital fabrication has become the technology that is accessible for the industrial sector and household manufacturers.
The special thing about 3D printing is the way an object is made. While the traditional forming used subtractive manufacturing which cuts out or carves out the material according to the desired model. For example, traditional carpenter would saw many pieces of wood to make a piece of furniture. The 3D printing, however, applies the additive manufacturing technique which is done by adding the material to form the desired shape. Sarah Hoit, a columnist from the Matter differentiates both types of production by giving an example. Hoit says that subtractive manufacturing is like sculpting an object out of a big marble while additive manufacturing is creating a sculpture by assembling pieces of small bricks.
Not only does additive manufacturing technique reduce the waste of material, it also allows designers and innovators to create the unprecedented form of work. The exhibition “Industrial Revolution 2.0: How the Material World will Newly Materialise” held at the V&A Museum in New York in 2011 showcased the amazing art and designs fabricated by 3D printing. An important work was the sculpture of Lady Belhaven with a hat additionally printed by Samuel Joseph. Another example is the Fractal MCX Table with a complicated shape inspired by the dragon tree. This table made by Platform Studio and Mathais Bar was invented with only once piece of resin. Without 3D printing, those masterpieces would be impossible to do.
When 3D printing is the forming of an object according to a digital file, modifying the details of the working object is made possible, easy, and fast. More importantly, the cost of production is even lower than that in the industrial system which requires making of a mold. Therefore, 3D printing releases manufacturing from being limited only to large number production in the industrial system anymore. Manufacturers can make various products according to the specification of each customer. This is a remarkable step in manufacturing and product development.
Sport kit manufacturer Nike utilizes the benefits of 3D printing in fabrication of its new model of football boot called Vapor Laser Talon. This shoes model is manufactured with 3D printing so that each customer wears the shoes that fit precisely with their feet. While the major companies grow more interest in 3D printing to make their products, household manufacturer starts to shift their focus to this technology due to lower price of the printers. In addition, the designs used for making various products can be obtained from the Internet, like thingiverse.com, which is the open source for anyone to download, modify, and fabricate according to their needs.
When 3D printing opens a chance for everyone to create new shapes like never before and free the means of production from duplicated product in big volume, such a new digital technology, therefore, is a groundbreaking change in manufacturing and design that everyone is talking about.
Photo by Pujohn Das/ Space10
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