Those Gurus that like to predict the future tell that within a short period, every household will have a 3D printer. In fact, could even 3D printer+scanner combos be common? These elements will be used even to produce spare parts for broken appliances, toys and any other imaginable application.
With the new printers now entering the market, this seems realistitc, as their price is similar to that of domestic PCs in the 90s. Although the use of this thechnology for the average citizen is still to be proven useful, it is clear that 3D printing technologies have evolved greatly in the past decade.
And 3D techniques have been introduced to nearly any design office around the globe. In fact, since 2000, there have been a number of changes in the design environment, the main being the following:
- 3D cad software has been generalized. It was already quite present, but now it can be found in any sector and company size. So any company already hast the posibility of creating a 3D model inhouse.
- Web services have been reliably stablished. Some of us buy christmas presents on-line, and this same method is used to get 3d printing services from global providers.
- Software & hardware developpers have evolved to produce really user-friendly devices, even in professional environments. So any modern 3D printer can be operated by3D modellers without further training.
This decade will see the introduction of 3D scanners and other incredible design & prototyping capabilities.
But these days the mayor deal with 3D printing is in producing prototypes (they were built for that) but also small production runs and mold patterns. While most commonly used materials are plastics also metal printing is possible.
In the meantime it has become a basic tool for the design environment, as prototypes can be produced overnight for the following day meeting. (nearly nobody talks about post processing and removal of support materials, which require a couple of additional hours).