Expert designers from Freedom of Creation, Materialise and Shapeways in Belgium and the Netherlands serve as pioneers in the 3D printing industry. They have created a number of innovative items, including a shoe that holds an iPhone. While the shoe included elements from other designers, its overall design is largely the brainchild of the expert designers like Alan Nguyen. He likens his work to that of a DJ, mixing his own ideas with ideas from other designers. Representatives from the three expert design companies recently met and announced a new industry magazine entitled Print Shift. The publisher, UK based Blurb, prints single copies as customers request them, similar to the customized way that a 3D printing company works.
Cody Wilson, a Texas student, knows all about 3D printing technology. He fashioned a plastic gun that successfully fires bullets. He joins the European designers as someone who is fascinated with the technology that has been around for three decades but is now affordable for many users. The maker of desktop 3D printers Bre Prettis believes his company is launching an industrial revolution and changing the world. His MakerBot Replicator 2 costs around $2172. It attaches to a computer and slowly sprays liquefied plastic in layers until the finished product emerges hours or days later. In addition to plastic guns and iPhone holding shoes, consumers use 3D technology to build false teeth, prosthetic limbs and lace-patterned skulls.
Because this technology is accessible to average consumers, almost anyone can create useful items for everyday life. Students could use it to design and create unique items while learning about technology. Businesses could create a personalized mail printing campaign with the company logo then build their brand as they distribute those items to customers. Non-profit or civic organizations could use their printer to design promo items they sell at fundraising auctions and events. With limitless possibilities, 3D technology has the potential to make its mark on nearly any industry. Users simply must decide if they will use their 3D printers to improve on existing designs or create original items in their homes or offices.
By Abbey Peschel Boston-area printing & marketing specialist