3D printing- is it overhyped?

Since 3D printing hit the world and machines have made it affordable for ordinary people, there has been no end of hype about what is will achieve.3D printing has been hailed as the next industrial revolution as the concept of mass production is rendered obsolete as it transforms manufacturing for companies like Rolls Royce and Renishaw.

But the reality may not quite be the same, as 3D printer makers may be overclaiming in order to sell their devices.

While industrialised 3D printing has been around for decades, printing in a variety of materials including ceramics, metal and rubber- the desktop versions are far more limited.

They have a long way to go before they can churn out consumer desirables in the same way and even when they are fit for purpose, people may not use them.

That may be down to a basic lack of creativity and ignorance as to what can actually be achieved.

What is 3D printing?

  •     3D printing is an additive manufacturing process where successive layers of materials are laid down in different shapes
  •     Objects can be printed from computer aided design software
  •     3D printing has been used in industry since 1989
  •     The price of desktop 3D printers dropped dramatically a few years ago
  •     Early home 3D printers targeted the hacker community

For some, 3D printing is incidental.

A lot of the stuff being made currently seems to be about justifying the technology but there are a lot of my clients who don’t even know how their objects are made.

Other firms are cottoning on to a market for 3D printed goods. Belgian giant Materialise previously specialised in industrial 3D printing but now also has an online store to showcase some of the possibilities for the home.

Autodesk also used to specialise in industrial-scale CAD (computer-aided design) software but now has a consumer division offering those with home printers a range of blueprints.

Among its community of users, Autodesk has found that a lot of home 3D printers are being used for DIY rather than product design.

Lots of people are using their 3D printers for repairs. For example if a plastic bracket has broken, so one can simply print a replacement- however a 3D printer seems like something of an over-engineered solution to a broken piece of plastic.

Either way, the possibilities are likely to surprise us- with other hype about printing homemade guns coming from the USA- the future is raising unpredictable results.