Society and business both are still coming to grips with the twin world-changing technologies of three dimensional printing and scanning. Some call the combination of the two advances “micro manufacturing.” Others call them “rapid prototyping.” Whatever the euphemism, it is clear the potential for turning a piece of machinery into a copier for physical objects changes everything in ways we’re just now beginning to understand.
As exciting as all this sounds, the average person won’t be able to make use of such advanced technology without the ability to apply it to some practical purpose, especially if the goal is to utilize them in business.
Here are three ways you can use micro manufacturing and rapid prototyping in your innovative projects.
1- 3D Business Cards
We have the entertainment industry to thank for this highly useful idea. Artists and producers have long thought turning their business card into a statue of their most popular character and using the base for the statue as a four-sided “card” featuring their logo, a QR code, company contact information and information about the character would be an unstoppable way to put their ideas front and center in their customers’ minds.
Now suppose you could put a three-dimensional representation of your product directly on your customer’s desk complete with a listing of your company’s contact information, including your web site? What if two or more of your products could interact? What if you could turn your product prototype into a business card, or a piece of jewelry, or a one-of-a-kind trophy or commemorative coin?
Three dimensional printing is advancing quickly. It is already possible to fabricate objects out of plastics, composites and precious metals. While each individual object can be expensive, the impact of placing a custom painted (or color printed) promotional item with weight and shape and texture in the hands of a customer can’t be overstated.
Having that object prominently located in their office is even better.
2- Replacement Parts
One of the more difficult obstacles to keeping modern technology working is finding small-scale replacement parts. The best examples of this problem are the tiny screws that hold PC cases together. They all seem to be different sizes and require different washers and mounts, yet are almost never offered for sale on their own.
Finding a substitute screw that fits often seems like more trouble than its worth, but the alternative to putting your computer back together is not having a computer, which leaves most people stuck.
However, with a properly configured scanner and printer, it will soon be possible to scan your replacement screws and then reproduce them at will right at your desk or in your workshop. Granted many consumer grade printers don’t have the resolution to create precision objects yet, but such capabilities are at most a few years away, if not months.
As anyone who has attempted to mass produce a product will tell you, the production of a mold is one of the most expensive steps in the entire process.
In the world of 3D printing, making a mold is a simple process of performing a mathematical operation after scanning the object to be mass produced. The result takes a cube large enough to contain the object, subtracts the volume of the object from the cube and prints whatever is left over in two halves. Instant mass production mold.
Mass production may never be faster or less expensive.
It is only a matter of time before the democratization of three dimensional printing brings micro manufacturing into the lives of virtually every family and business. The advancement of this technology is likely to usher in a third industrial revolution and change the world in the process.