Growth and Development
3-D Printing has been called "...an overnight success story that has been thirty years in the making." In the 1980's 3-D printing was primarily used in the most advanced industrial and academic environments (Hornick, 2013). Now, 3-D printers can be commonly found in most industries and schools. Even some consumers are purchasing 3-D desktop printers for their homes. John Hornick, an IP litigator with 30 years’ experience at Finnegan IP Law Firm ("John F. Hornick.", 2013), has called 3-D Printing, "...the 3rd industrial revolution." He goes on to state that, "3-D Printing has the potential to change everything" (Hornick, 2013). So, what exactly is 3-D printing?
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This process is also known as additive manufacturing.
Additive manufacturing means that materials are fused together with heat, light, electron beams, chemicals, and even glue. Traditionally, manufacturing is subtractive and not additive. In subtractive manufacturing, you would start with a block of material and chip away until the object is developed. Most materials in additive manufacturing are made of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) or Polylactide (PLA) thermoplastic (Hornick, 2013). The PLA material is made of biodegradable resources such as cornstarch, or even sugarcane. This material is considerably less durable than its counterpart ABS, which is the chemical compound Legos are made of (Rasal, 2009).
When Charles Hull invented stereolithography there was no such thing as rapid prototyping. In other words, there was no way for the CAD design to communicate to any type of rapid prototyping system. Charles Hull wanted a way to increase the processing speed of designing tools. Typically, creating an exact concept model or prototype took thousands of dollars and several months up to a year to produce. Coming up with a solution for such a slow process was not easy. Not only did Charles have to tackle several problems with hydrodynamics and chemistry, he also had to tackle problems with the imaging itself. The laser's UV wavelength required for the liquid polymer to harden demanded a considerable amount of power and adequate cooling system. Ultimately, the cost for sustaining one of these machines was more than the system itself. The solution did not come until almost a decade later when solid state lasers had more availability ("Journey Of A Lifetime", 2013).
In 1992, following the implementation of solid state lasers, Charles Hull and his company 3D Systems developed the first stereolithographic mechanism. The machine was able to develop complex parts such as water faucets with rotating knobs or car vents with multidirectional sliding capabilities (Maxey 2013). Charles Hull's invention of stereolithography has drastically reduced the duration of the prototyping process from months to just a couple of weeks ("The Journey Of A Lifetime", 2013). It has strengthened the productivity of manufacturing. Product assembly can now be completed in in just a handful of steps. The price per object will be truncated because the printers can create objects on-demand (Hornick, 2013). These are among some of the benefits that industries will see utilizing a 3-D printer. Dr. Adrian Bowyer saw the potentials that 3-D printing had and set to develop a printer that would liberate users from relying on manufacturers (Maxey, 2013).
In 2005, Dr. Adrian Bowyer founded the project he called RepRap. RepRap's goal was to develop a printer that could build its own elements. Nearly 3 years later RapRap released "Darwin." Darwin was the first 3-D printer efficient enough to print multiple materials into a single object. Because of this,...