From building construction to the healthcare field, military warfare to space exploration, 3D printing is all the rage right now, revolutionizing manufacturing across myriad industries. Indeed, the technology is picking up speed so quickly that GE even invented a holiday for it on December 3rd: 3D Printing Day.
While the mechanics that govern 3D printing may seem to be something out of a science-fiction book, in reality the roots of the process have actually been around for some time. As millions of engineers around the globe continue to hone and improve the technological wonder, here are five things you might not have known about 3D printing.
- 3D printing actually began in the 1980s, when computers, using advanced lasers, were made to trace a pattern that was submerged in a liquid polymer, which then hardened into durable plastic.
- Today’s 3D printers work nearly the same as a traditional inkjet printer. Called material extrusion, the printer builds up an object out of matter pushed from a mechanical head in much the way an inkjet produces text on a page by extruding ink onto paper.
- 3D printing will lead to less waste in production. Traditional production techniques that require cutting, drilling or filing leave behind leftover scraps, but 3D printing is actually an additive process, building an object up from a base material.
- Manufacturers across all industries will find they risk less with 3D printing, as there’s no need to switch out molds or re-tool machinery. So no longer will they have to create thousands of products to recoup the cost of setting up a factory.
- Industry insiders are touting that 3D printing will lead to stronger local business models, as the traditional manufacturing paradigm will shift and “re-localize,” exponentially increasing the numbers of manufacturers in any economy.