Week 5 Response :some thoughts on 3D printing

This week in lecture we learnt about physical sciences, rapid prototyping, GPS and natural phenomena. Rapid prototyping intrigues me most because I had some experience with 3D printing and I believe 3D printing will make huge differences to our normal daily life in the near future.

3D printing creates three-dimensional solid objects from virtual designs made in a CAD (Computer-Aided Design file ) file utilizing a 3D modelling program or with the use of a 3D scanner. The software used for 3D printing divides the final design into thousands and thousands of horizontal layers and then the 3D printer creates the actual product layer by layer and blends every layer so that “the layering process” is not so visible (still quite obvious to me though).

Below is a youtube clip which shows a 3D printer in action.

My first experience with 3D printing was not so plausible. When I was taking icam 40, the first assignment was to make a pendant by using 3D printing technology. My design was quite intricate and complicated, as it consists of many tiny spheres as well as squares linked to each other edge by edge.

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The online printing website  claimed that it could not print it because some fragments were too small. I went to a local UPS store which offers 3D printing service to try my luck and the manager told me that he was not sure about it but could try to print it. The result turned out was that my pendant was fragmented thus I needed to use superglue to connect them all together with extreme care because it was super fragile.

In my opinion even though 3D printing has totally subverted the idea about production and manufacture and revolutionized it, 3D printing still cannot totally replace the traditional factory/hand-craft production industries. For example, 3D printing offers a wide variety of medium which the product can be printed in, but the selection is still quite limited. The consumers will still have to use the traditional production industries if the medium they choose is not available for 3D printing. In addition to that, hand-crafted items which involve a lot of devotion and time from the artisans and the inevitable human errors on them create an intimate sensation and emotional connections between the consumers and the items. The crude and raw quality of 3D printing products have no match with the intricate, complex hand-crafted items either. To me, the relationship of between 3D printing and traditional manufacturing industry is similar to the relationship between mp3 and vinyls/CDs/Tapes: fast-paced and ephemeral consumption cycle and the convenience will result in the overall triumph of 3D printing products but a small groups of nostalgic consumers will choose the latter.

Sooner or later, the world is going to be flooded with 3D printed products.

Some interesting news regarding 3D printing:

China just 3D-printed an entire mansion:

https://www.techinasia.com/china-3d-printed-mansion-and-tower-block/

3D printing resurrects antiquity’s version of beer pong:

http://3dprintingindustry.com/2015/01/27/3d-printing-antiquity-beer-pong/

—–Tian Wu

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