3D printing has fast become a hot topic in recent years; it intrigues everybody and often pricks the interest of the adventurous hobbyist. Lots of manufacturers have swarmed to the 3D industry in the hopes of claiming a piece of the future cash cow by targeting the household 3D printer market.
There are tons of off the shelf ready to print models available and the technology and reliability behind them are improving on a weekly basis. Many a budding inventor, enthusiastic DIY’er and even the weekend tinkerer want one for their home, but can often be put off by the thought of having to learn complicated software to design parts and the misconception that it’s an expensive piece of kit that’s going to end up being a gigantic paperweight.
The reality is while it may seem like a technology that’s in its infancy, it has in fact been around for quite some time. But just not obtainable or available to the average member of the public due to the expense, but all that has changed in recent years and it’s now on the cusp of becoming a life changing necessity in most people’s homes.
The possibility of one day in the future being able to order home furnishings or electrical equipment from major manufacturers and instead of having a delivery guy turn up on your doorstep with your goods, you could receive digital files via email. You can then pass on to your household 3D printer to print your purchases right before your very eyes.
Yes, it may seem far-fetched right now but so did the mobile communicators used in star trek all those years ago even though you’re probably reading this article on a handheld device with far superior technology than you ever imagined possible by one of those star trek devices.
There are many different types of household 3D printers, but the most common type found in the home market is a Fused deposition modeling (FDM) printer, which builds objects layer by layer using different layer heights as small as 0.01mm. Different layer heights can result in objects being made up of thousands of layers.
Currently, there are lots of filaments (the equivalent to ink) that 3D printers can print
- PLA (Polylactic acid)
- ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)
- Nylon (tough, flexible, heat resistant)
- LAYWOO-D and similar (feels like wood and sandable too)
- LAYBRICK and related (feels porous and brick-like qualities)
- Electrically conductive filament (can create intricate circuitry within printed parts)
The above are just a few of the readily available materials these printers can create objects with on household 3D printer models. Industrial scale printers can print even more specialist materials such as steel to build working prototypes or gigantic crane sized printers. These crane sized printers can produce entire buildings in a day (albeit undecorated or pretty on the eye after direct printing) and then cladded and plastered to create dwellings you’d never suspect of being printed layer by layer.
3D printing is growing rapidly and will soon be readily accessible to the masses through schools, and once people adopt the concept as less intimidating and confusing, it will undoubtedly lead to it being embraced and used by the masses.