3D printing has recently moved beyond infancy and is being used in various industries for more than just prototyping. Few people have a grasp of what this technology is capable of and its potential for revolutionising industries. Already 3D printing is utilising materials as diverse as porcelain, chocolate, resin, nylon and recyclable plastics. As the list of options grows – so too does the potential for this process.
Emerging specialist 3D printing studios are housing printers for multiple applications. One machine may be very cost effective and suitable for rudimentary designs, while another may be more suitable for printing working mechanical parts (which come already assembled), or for focusing on colour and the ability to render realism.
Alternative methods of designing for 3D print are also being explored. Some methods don’t require CAD drawings, but can be designed/sculpted using virtual reality tools or even live video feeds. This means products and packaging ideas that were once restricted by the limitations of traditional means of manufacture might benefit from the flexibility of 3D printing. Also the possibility of not having to manufacture off-shore and printing things locally is beneficial for customisation, short run production and experimentation.
Below are some examples of astonishing things that have been printed in 3D to date:
A Chocolate Brain
An MRI scan has been printed three dimensionally in chocolate:
A breakfast table
Photo shoot for the Times magazine
Promotional carton of eggs
3D printed dental crowns
That only take an hour to print.
A Les Paul style guitar
With an internal atom with spinning electrons’.
“Iceberg” digitally printed ceramic pottery
By Jonathon Keep
Nokia Lumia 820 custom phone cases
Template available to download online and print at home
While some of the more sophisticated 3D printing is still not cost effective in terms of mass production, in the next few years it’s destined to become more so. There is incredible potential for brands to push the boundaries of product and packaging design and think outside the square in terms of how the process might revolutionize innovation and production in the future.