originally posted by: nwtrucker
a reply to: Aazadan
Cool, I'm off work for a few days...under the weather.
We can spread out the printers to different locals, but that also spreads the distribution of the raw materials needed as well. Six of one half a
dozen of the other?
It's not really a six of one situation. Under the current manufacturing process raw materials are produced, they get shipped to the manufacturer,
then the product is produced and shipped to distribution centers, from there the product goes to regional stores. The same item (albeit in different
forms) has to be shipped to three different locations, this creates a lot of overhead. With 3d printing you can ship directly to the point of sale
and build the item in the store. This gives you a much more streamlined distribution process.
Lets take an example I did for a buddy of mine a year ago. The company was in LA making a social media game, and one of the rewards for accumulating
points in the game was being able to redeem those points for a figurine of the character. So the way this was done, was I took the 3d modeling files
and made some adjustments to make them 3d printable (posing them, making stable geometry, a base to stand on, and so on). When this was done I
emailed them back to the company. The company took these files to their local Staples with it's 3d printer and made some prototypes so they could
get final approvals.
From there, when these points were redeemed, the game would look at the users location data, find the closest 3D printer (I think there were 5 or 6
used in the country) and email an order to the print shop. It would then be delivered to that user through the mail a couple days later. This
technology allows for made to order parts with small supply chains.
Another example, a friend of mine that's a little closer to me in Pittsburgh owns a metal shop. He's one of those rare manufacturers still in
business these days. They have most of the stuff you would expect and a couple of neat toys like some of the newer machines that can laser cut a
sheet of metal. His shop does well. Anyways a couple years back he had a very large and expensive order and needed a prototype for the customer
before he went about making it to make sure they were on the same page. He emailed me the blueprints and I created a 3d model from those, this was a
couple years ago so 3d printers weren't quite as popular. From the model we sent it to a rapid prototype designer and they created it, then sent it
back to him. In the span of about 3 days (1 day work, 2 days transit) he had a physical prototype to show the customer, so that they could make
Another way this technology can be used: As part of a capstone project I had to design an interactive model. I chose to use a house I could get the
blueprints for. I went about modeling the entire house, exact down to the inch on the plans. Once the house was built I went about adding features
like being able to dynamically change the flooring or the paint, or even some of the wall components like different door styles. When it was done,
potential "home buyers" (really just people checking out my project) could wear a virtual reality helmet and physically walk through the home. They
could view the rooms in the middle of the day or late at night when the lighting is less. They could change the paint in the rooms to match what they
liked, or switch between hardwood floors and carpet. I don't know how much home retailers are taking advantage of this right now but I bet we start
seeing more of it, once they realize it can be done. Letting your customers walk through their home before it's finished, and decide on every
customization they want means more money for the contractor and happier home buyers.
Back to 3d specific printing, it was back in late december that the ISS first started using its 3d printer, they have begun printing tools for use.
It takes them about 4 hours to print something and it costs pennies to do. Compare that to the cost of shipping up materials on a rocket. 3d
printing is what gave the ISS it's own machine shop, and it's putting a machine shop in the homes of every single person who wants one.
Printing itself currently uses two competing technologies. There's the cheaper method which extrudes plastic and heats it. Then the machine places
this plastic in the appropriate spot with very high precision. The plastic cools, and more is placed on top of it. Over time the object is built up.
This form of printing is inexpensive but the only material it can use is plastic so there's a quality issue with certain parts. The other method is
to use powered materials combined with a laser activated binding agent. This system uses drums of powder which get laid by a machine, and then a
laser activated binding agent fuses the powder together into one item. Doing this millions or billions of times eventually builds up the item. This
is how printing metal is possible.
The Chinese 3d printed homes used this method. They printed out of building waste such as concrete that couldn't be used and leftover wood. They
turned that into powder for the printer then printed it into prefab sections for homes. Then those home parts were trucked to their destination.
There is even 3d printed food these days. The technology is pretty close to that of a replicator from Star Trek, it wouldn't surprise me in the
least to learn that, that was the inspiration behind developing it.
There's going to be a need for traditional manufacturing for a couple decades still, but high tech manufacturing is going to replace it. As a nation
we really do need to be involved in both because there are a lot of good paying jobs to be had, which require some skills.