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We are starting to see 3D printing in the news more often and this week was no exception. USA Today published an article that goes in-depth into the industries that are harnessing the technology and what it means for the future of manufacturing. If you have not had a chance to read the article now you can by simply clicking here.
USA Today article preview:
Thanks to the Internet and declining hardware costs, 3D printing — once a specialized process used sparingly by industrial companies for prototyping — is becoming more common among design hobbyists and entrepreneurs such as Summit.
The consumer market’s embrace of the technology has been swift. Sales for all 3D printing products and services worldwide grew 24% to $1.33 billion in 2010, fueled in part by a fast-growing market of do-it-yourselfers, says industry research firm Wohlers Associates.
The firm also estimates sales will continue to post “strong double-digit growth” in the next several years, reaching about $3.1 billion by 2016 from an estimated $1.6 billion this year.
Here’s how 3D printing generally works: Once a product is designed on software, the file is sent to a special 3D printer that contains a spool (or cartridge) of a material — typically, plastic, metal or ceramics — in a fine powder or gel-like texture. Like printing on paper, the 3D printer lays down successive layers of the material and builds up until an object emerges. It’s then cleaned, painted or cooled.
The technology is already prevalent in industrial manufacturing. Boeing prints some air duct parts for its planes. Invisalign’s teeth aligners are printed, as are hearing aid shells by Starkey Laboratories in Minnesota.
“You have freedom of creation. You can do almost anything,” says Terry Wohlers of Wohlers Associates.
To read the full article please click here.