3-D printing is a relatively new technology compared to other manufacturing methods. It first showed is face in the 1980’s and then faded out of limelight due to the high cost of procurement and operation. In the early 2000’s, breakthroughs occurred when working printed kidneys appeared and SLS (selective laser sintering) machines became available. During late 2009, the early advocates finally produced machines cheap enough - but still capable of great precision and accuracy - that were available to the consumer. These machines can produce items of virtually anything with applications varying from fashion and food to advanced engineered systems. The versatility of this type of machine promotes its popularity and encourages the technological advancement for better machines.
A man called Charles Hull in the early 80’s first took 3-D printing seriously. He coined and patented the idea of stereolithography, or the creation of an object through an additive process and made the first printer to actually work. Early on, this additive action, guided by a computer, enabled the production of objects in many different forms but only of limited material. The available technology at the time was basic and as computers became bigger and better, so did additive manufacturing. Computers obviously play an integral role in 3-D printing. Without them, there simply is not a means to produce 3-D files for printing. The physical limits of computers in the 80’s were tiny and the software capabilities even smaller. (www.3dprinter.net)
Fast-forward to Y2K, and computers are 100 times better than those of 10 or 15 years before as were the available 3-D printers. Computer aided design programs such as OpenSCAD were now complex and ‘smart’ enough to generate intricate and precision components. Instead of using only thermoplastics and plaster, new additive machines use all types of metal alloys, plastics, powders, and even food. (troweprice.com)
Around 2010, 3-D printers became available to consumers in desktop form and their popularity exploded. The most iconic example of these machines’ emerging popularity is the 3-D printable plastic gun, which was fully functional. This simple but cutting edge piece of consumer technology became a diadem in the eyes of hobbyists and small scale manufacturers alike while arousing concerns amongst governmental and anti-weapons activists as to the legality and safety issues 3-D printers posed. (Simon Bradshaw)By now, anyone with only some designing inclinations could use freely available Google SketchUp to create basic 3-D objects.
Because of the applications of this wonderful technology, the industry grew in leaps and bounds. With companies such as Boeing, Virgin Atlantic, Bentley, Delphi and MTT investing into research and development, the estimated worth of the industry is currently estimated at 2.2 billion dollars. (Jon Excell) Boeing’s interest in 3-D printing comes from their desire for...