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3D Printing


One of the greatest leaps forward in design has happened over the last 10 years in the form of 3D printing.  3D printing has found numerous applications across a spectrum of fields including product design, archeology, pathology, paleonthology and architecture among many others.

What is 3D printing?  3D takes a three dimensional design and divides it into many layers, cross sections of the designed object.  These layes are around 100 micrometres (0.1mm).  When stacked together, these layers create an actual full size 3D object that was originally designed digitally. The layers are made of plastics, metals or often, resin.  3D Printers such as RepRap, Up!, MakerBot and Botmill can produce prototypes based on designs created with 3D software such as AutoCad, produce the thin layers that are stacked on top of one another to produce a 3D design of the model created digitally.
There are also services such as Shapeways and Scupteo that allow users to upload their designs via the web and have them created with a 3D printer.  3d Printing is revolutionizing design in that it is freeing up the design process and allow for customization that previously would have been impractical. 

Architechts are creating models that used to cost upwards of $100,000 for $2000.  There's even a company called Bespoke Innovations that is creating prosthetic limbs customized with metal, leather and other materials according to the tastes of the clients. 
3D printing is going to herald a new era of 3D design as it has removed the  barriers that have prevented designers from unleashing their imaginations because previously, creating 3D models was so costly and time consuming and this hindered innovation.  Innovation occurs when engineers and designers are free to let their imaginations flow freely and this can't happen unless these pioneers can feel free to engage in trial and error and often fail before discovering a breakthrough that works.