The History of 3D printing
3D printing is the process of creating three dimensional (3D) objects from digital files. It is also sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing. Basically, objects are modeled on a 3D modeling software such as Maya, 3ds Max etc., and then, a material is joined layer by layer in an additive manner and solidified to form the 3D model.
It can be traced back to the 1980s, specifically 1986. It was then called rapid prototyping because it was considered a fast and cost-effective way of creating prototype models for developing products in industries.
The first commercially available 3D printer was released in 2009, and in 2012 alternative 3D printing processes were introduced into the market.
Effects on the economy
the technology is unique in the sense that it reduces complexity. Parts and components, assembly steps, and costs can all be significantly reduced.
It has the potential to create new jobs and industries both in the developed and developing worlds. However, the economic benefits of both worlds may vary because they have different economic needs.
This effect can already be seen in the 3D modeling industry where more people are going to 3D object modeling to cater for the demand of these skills.
35% of engineering jobs demand some form of skills in the technology which rely heavily on 3D designers.
it comes therefore as no surprise that 3D design jobs have been accelerating rapidly over the years.
3D printing will not be possible without CAD experts, which is why the rise CAD designer demand is directly proportional to the rise in the the technology industry.
The benefits to the developing worlds are double-faced, in that, on the positive side manufacturing cost through recycled and other local materials may be lowered drastically, however, the loss of manufacturing jobs may hit the affected parts of the world hard and may take time to recover.
The cost-effectiveness of the technology is also another economy booster. The more easily it is to acquire say a new cell phone cover, the easier it is for more people to purchase and that means more market for the manufacturer and ultimately a boost in the economy.
An example of cost-effectiveness in a manufacturing sense would be a situation where some amount of say aluminum is needed to build the part of an engine.
Usually, about 70% of the required amount of material is really used. The surplus is melted and stored for later reuse.
3D printing with its additive manufacturing processes makes it possible to use the precise amount of required materials for an operation and helps avoid the additional cost involved in melting surplus materials in our aluminum example.
This saves the manufacturing company money which may be incorporated into the production.
A practical example would be Boeing, the airplane manufacturing company. According to Boeing, the introduction of the technology into their manufacturing pipeline will save the company about $3 million on every Jet they produce.
The Ford Motor Company says it now uses the technology to produce and assemble prototypes. Which are faster to produce and usually ready for testing in a few weeks and costs a few thousand dollars instead of hundreds of thousands.