Is 3D Printing the Future of Printing?
3D printing has garnered a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. What's really exciting about this technology and process is what it means for both the average consumer and inventor. Instead of paying a company thousands of dollars to create a prototype for a product, you can do it yourself in the comfort of your own home.

What is 3D Printing?

Also called "additive manufacturing," 3D printing creates three-dimensional, tangible objects from a digital file. The process that creates these life-like objects uses an additive technique, where materials are layered on top of each other until the object is created. Each layer features a thin, horizontal cross-section of what will become the finished product. 3D printing is changing the game for major manufacturers and home enthusiasts alike, and the technology is picking up speed: According a 2013 report by MarketsandMarkets, 3D printing is expected to grow more than 14% annually to become a $8.4 billion industry by 2020.

Indeed, 3D printing, though still in the early stages of adoption, is already making an impact. A group of doctors from St. Luke's and Roosevelt in New York City used 3D printing to print a trachea for implantation at a fraction of the typical cost for such undertakings. And as the New York Daily News reports, Dr. Faiz Bhora and his team printed a 3D silicone model of a trachea they created from biological material and CAT scan data using a Fab@Home 3D printer in only 15 minutes. They didn't have to raise millions of dollars to have the model developed. Instead, they put it into testing and the device will now be available within a few years.
The Future, or a Fad?
Is 3D printing really the future of printing? For most companies, it's still business as usual. Not all companies have a need for 3D printing, and if you're not in manufacturing or bringing complex products to market, there's little benefit in being able to create a prototype with ease.

For the typical consumer, 3D printing can be a fun experiment, but it isn't yet practical as an investment. Creating the schematics needed to produce a prototype with 3D printing technology requires specific software skills. You will either need to know how to use a 3D modeling program like CAD (Computer Aided Design) to create your digital file, have access to a 3D scanner to copy an existing object, or SLS (Selective Laser Sintering), a technology that uses a high-powered laser to fuse small particles of plastic, metal, ceramic, or glass powders into a three-dimensional shape. If you do know how to use these programs and technologies and you have an idea for a product, then 3D printing may be worth exploring.

Given that 3D printing requires specialized skills, traditional manufacturing companies might consider incorporating 3D printing into their service offerings. For the rest of us, we can enjoy 3D printing even if we don't have our own 3D printer. Companies like 3D Babies use ultrasound images or photography of newborn babies to offer parents the chance to own 3D sculptures of their babies. With 3D printing, you can turn virtually anything into a material object. Drawings, camera lenses, tech gear, shoes-the sky is the limit.

At Coordinated Business Systems, we always have an eye on emerging technologies. We partner with the most technologically advanced companies in the world to provide our clients with total office services, including managed network services, managed print services, and electronic document management. Give us a call at 800-852-9084, or contact us online, to find out how we can help take your business into the next generation of success.