No one can deny the rapid growth of 3d printing within the developed nations. Here are just a few reasons why 3d printing is beneficial to all South Africans.
For many companies, the logic of 3-D printing is already clear. Because 3-D printers build an object by layering plastic or other material guided by a design file, they eliminate the waste of traditional manufacturing, in which up to 90 percent of raw materials can be discarded. The printers can work all day and night unattended. They can print interlocking parts, reducing or eliminating the need for assembly. They will enable companies to shorten supply chains, instantly distribute goods to any printer and quickly make replacement parts. And they can create objects with geometries and internal complexities that traditional factory machines can’t match.
3-D printing is already quite useful in fields as diverse as automotive, medical, aerospace and consumer electronics. Designers don’t need to wait for parts to be shipped, they don’t need advanced skills to tinker, and they can adjust specifications and create new iterations quickly. As a result, they can try out zany ideas at a relatively low cost.
Ease of Use
This ability to easily experiment, combined with a technology that creates shapes that can’t be made any other way, may become increasingly powerful. From an engineering perspective, complexity is free: The cost, time and skill necessary for 3-D printing a complicated object is roughly the same as for a simple one made of the same amount of material. As a result, inventors will be freed to dream up products in shapes and material combinations never attempted before, unburdened by the design logic of traditional manufacturing. They’ve already made progress integrating electronics into 3-D printed goods; down the line, they’ll be able to embed sensors, smart technology and artificial intelligence.
As personal printers get better and cheaper, they’re reducing the expense and risk for individual inventors to become manufacturers. The cost of customization is almost eliminated, because the printers don’t require retooling to make new shapes, and entrepreneurs don’t need to sell big batches of identical items; they can print to order. For a small business, a 3-D printer can eliminate excess production and the need for warehousing, and diminish the costs of distribution. Enthusiasts like to imagine a future in which a 3-D printer in every home will produce all you need, customized and on-demand. A more likely scenario is that people will use a print shop to produce designs they’ve purchased from entrepreneurs or created themselves. In Europe, Staples Inc. is collaborating with Mcor Technologies Ltd. on just such a strategy: Customers can upload design files to a website, and have the product printed at their local Staples.