Watch our inagural #GarageTalks episode below that we streamed on Facebook Live!
Or you can read our recap below.
I think Tim Yewchuk says it best when he talks about helping designers and engineers turn their ideas into reality.. 3D printing is about accessibility, turning the lament of, “wouldn’t this be cool” into, “this turned out so cool!”
Many of us come equipped with original ideas, but we don’t necessarily have the breadth of skills to take those innovations and turn them into something viable.
Enter 3D printing.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, works from the bottom up, printing layer by layer and point by point to create a final product. The process leading up to that printing is similar.
1. The innovator conjures up an idea, speaks with an engineer who will draw up a blueprint for the printer, and, layer by layer, a team creates something very real from what seemed to be a whimsical idea.
It “democratizes” the production process. Who doesn’t want a say in what comes out at the end of a project? It is our idea. We have the vision.
2. A 3D print team materializes that dream into reality using our voice and our passion for whatever we wish to create.
It doesn’t matter if the “genius” is 8 years old coming up with a Father’s Day gift or 18 years old with an innovative tool idea for the trade world. If you’re old enough to grab some grid paper and get thinking, you are fit for the job!
Okay, but who would use 3D printing other than brilliant visionaries? Well…smart business owners for a start.
Dr. Ahmed Qureshi, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Alberta, rightly points out that 3D printing is a great alternative when a company needs a part or product in “small batches” or perhaps something “customize[d]”, or is in an emergency situation and time is of the essence.
Why not print it? Leaps and bounds (and research, because we can’t live life on metaphors) have been made on the geometry of the product (making sure what was envisioned is what comes out) and the strength of the material (factoring in something like torque ability).
This is why it’s still good to utilize 3D print companies instead of buying an at-home printer and hoping for the best. These professionals can help advise on what material is suitable for a project and what size of printer will fit different geometric needs. Trial and error is fun for a while, but isn’t it better to work with a “genius”?
Dr. Qureshi brings up a couple valuable points about the benefits of 3D printing as opposed to more conventional technologies.
1. First, there is no inventory (because you print how many products you need, when you need them) which means there is no need for giant warehouses to store parts.
Companies can store as many digital files of part models as they have RAM for, and eliminate the need for a massive ecological footprint (not to mention what they’ll save on renting thousands of square feet!).
That also means that there is opportunity to work remotely. Order pieces from home or at the cabin! Why check stock? Why spend time (and money) doing inventory when you can print at a moment’s notice?
2. Second, there are no odds and ends being shaved off and dumped at the end of production because the product has been planned out in its entirety.
No waste, no waste management fees, no wasteful impact. Any cutting (and cutting is minimal) is done in the machine itself as all the gaps and negative space have been factored in.
It’s just…made. And it’s made well because it is planned well. Who knew 3D printing could be so environmentally friendly?
3D printing is a work in progress (but aren’t we all?). The University of Alberta, in collaboration with 3D Print Western, is working together to create a process that works for everyone, whether the goal is a fully functional prosthetic, haute couture jewellery, or even a motorcycle. The process is becoming industrialized and more reliable for all kinds of enterprises.
At the end of the day, some of us want our visions to be parametrically optimized and some of us only care about having a tiny but entirely accurate Yoda. As Marty McFly said:
If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.
It’s as if he knew 3D printing was the future…