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Can 3D Printing change the world?


Can 3D Printing change the world?

By Andy Cohen 

Or… Is 3D Printing a fad?

Before we can answer these questions lets first take a look at what 3D Printing actually is. 3D Printing, also referred to as Additive Manufacturing, is a method of producing objects where the materials are added together. The conventional method cuts or subtracts material from a larger mass. With 3D Printing the printer draws a very thin slice of the object on a 2D surface. The 3D Printer then repeatedly draws another slice on top of the previous, adding material each time until the object is complete.

The cost of making a single object using 3D printing is substantially less then it costs to manufacture conventionally. For example, a plastic hook for hanging ties in a closet would cost tens of thousands of dollars requiring an injection mold and a very large machine.  One would have to make thousands of them to make their production worthwhile. The production cost to 3D Print the same object is less then $1 for a single copy. 3D Printing can also produce complex objects that are impossible to make using conventional approaches.

Conventional approaches typically require substantial skill on the part of the operator as well as production facilities and some pretty large expensive machines. 3D Printing can be accomplished using a small desktop machine that can be operated by anyone who cares to learn to use it. There are 3D Printers in large high value industries such as aerospace and defense. There are 3D printers in use by medical researchers who are exploring the production of all sorts of medical solutions.

3D Printing is impacting the Art world, Engineering, Architecture, Education and it is taking the hobby industry by storm. Today anyone can buy a desktop 3D Printer costing as low as $400. Like the personal computers of the 1980s, these machines require a bit of mastering, but they do work.  The objects they produce come directly from files generated by design software.

While it does require a bit of skill to design a 3D object anyone can get a multitude of objects for free without having to know how to use the design software. All sorts of things can be downloaded including toys, figures, art works, hobby items, tools, household repair parts even 3D Printer parts. Web sites such as offer thousands of these objects at no cost.

You also do not need to know how to operate nor own a 3D Printer at all. Online services such as can do the printing for you, for a fee.  Those local to the Sonoma County area can also use the 3D Printing services of Sonoma County 3D Printing in Sebastopol. The services there include small and large format 3D Printing, small qty production, 3D capture and all sorts of design consulting.

So can 3D Printing change the world? In this writers opinion it already has. Is it a fad? We think not!



Andy Cohen is the owner and principle operator of Sonoma County 3D Printing; a 3D Printing services and retail store located in Sebastopol CA. Andy is also the Producer and cohost of the 3D Printing Today podcast which is the top rated podcast related to 3D Printing, 3D Capture and other 3D Printing related topics. Andy has over 28 years working for high tech companies and holds a Ph.D. in Information Systems.