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Manufacturing comes home with 3D printing

by Bruno Deshayes on 09 Jun 2016 permalink
Medical prosthesis, novelty items, replacement parts for vintage cars, replicas of archaeological artefacts are now all coming out of the desktop manufacturing stream which was once the exclusive domain of industrial prototyping.

Now you don't need to send your manufacturing off to China and have your good ideas stolen before your get a chance to establish your market.

Whether it is a one off or a small production run - it can be all made in-house. No more inventory problems - just manufacture on demand.

Isn't that every small business dream?

We live in a plastic world and for the price of a car you can own a machine that lays the ABS plastic creations of your dreams in a range of nine colours!

Have you ever been frustrated playing with your Lego set and not finding that special part you always needed?

As the curator of the native arts museum have you been reluctant to let go of your special collection for a cultural tour? This type of one to one reproduction (a 3D photocopier if you wish) requires first a 3D scanner This will digitize the outer contour of the object with a laser beam. Then this collection of dots has to be converted into a 3D computer model in the STL file format that CAD software programs produce.

Dr Frankenstein is just one step closer to create the bionic zombie. Hip sockets, bone replacement, tooth implants, dentures are all rolling out of the lab. One scary thought is when stem cells are being sprayed into a 3D model for organ replacement...

One sector quietly using 3D printing under the radar so to speak is the custom electronics sector. The outer casing needed to house the circuit board, batteries and various connectors is kept on a CAD database. A new case is made for each application and then printed in ABS plastic. No more tooling. The holes are all the right size. No adjustment needed!

Some stockbrokers have been accused of over-rating the potential of 3D printing companies. The filing of patents has been rife, even registering English phrases as trademarks so that competitors have to use a euphemism to describe the technology.

Now you can manufacture on your desktop any artistic or mechanical object that can be rendered through a computer design. Think of the possibilities. The tech bubble has passed. Prices have come down. Economies of scale demand new methods. Globalisation had its day. Maybe now is the time to make things at home again.


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