This article is less about technique and more about thoughts that I had while designing my last project. It was based on an idea I had a few days ago: a reminder that you place in top of a medicine tube to remember the last time you took your medicine. This design was published on Thingiverse.
To get a practical design I had to go through multiples iterations and the 3D printer was a great way to directly have a confirmation that my changes were going in the right direction. In this case I just had to wait 50 minutes to see the alterations results…
So what are the consequences of these short prototype cycles? Can these 3D printer be used by the end customer to get exactly the right custom product?
When we think about the “2D” version of printing we can see and evolution with:
- Scribes and monks reproducing parchment by hand
- Gutenberg and the print press with mass production of books
- To reach mass customization with modern printer technologies like inkjet or laser
Now if we look at the 3D object reproduction, we can see that the first step was sculpting to get a custom object. Then injection molding and casting helped to mass produce the same shape and now the 3D printers are opening the realm of mass customization…
Note that I’m not trying the start a flame war when I make a parallel between hand-writing and CNC. Modern machining is in a sense the final step of evolution of sculpting. The helmet picture is one of the most impressive demonstration of 5 axis machining that I’ve seen so far. Built by Daishin, the speed and the details that this machine is capable of carving are absolutely stunning.
Now 3D printing is currently at his infancy slow and some time limited. But it as already access to many materials from plastics to metal and ceramic. New fields are opening with organ and organic tissues printing. So who can really know where it will stop?