by Meher Masalawala
3D printing has been around for some time but it is gaining more popularity these days. The development of the technology is making it more mainstream and is being used by many different industries. It has huge potential to make significant changes for production labor and design in the near future.
What Is It?
Simply put, it is the 3D printing of an object from a digital file. Addictive technology is used in most printers in which a model is made of the object and then hundreds and thousands of thinly sliced horizontal layers are stacked to make the final result.
How Is It Used?
The market is expected to grow very quickly and is being utilized in everything from the automotive and medical to the fashion industry. Nike now produces prototypes of their shoes in a matter of a few hours when it used to take weeks to do the same. The auto industry can print car parts on-site which saves them the time and cost of importing from a separate manufacturer. In the field of publishing we now see print-on-demand (POD) books found at Amazon and B&N stores saving both time and money for the printer and consumer while helping lesser known writers. The same effect would happen for other industries when using 3D printers.
What Does This Mean for Designers?
In terms of graphic design 3D printing can be used to “output a client’s logo for display in the offices, or create quick mock ups to present to the client in more elaborate pitches”. Integration of the technology for designers has begun since Photoshop has added a 3D export feature for renders made in the program. It includes a link to Shapeways.com–a 3D printing company you can outsource to, just like a printer. “The difference, of course, is that they output your 3D model files instead of high resolution pages.”
There are already 3D printers on the market at an affordable price range for regular consumers to purchase so this technology could change much about daily lives once it gains usability.