3D printing – it’s print but not as we know it!

January 4, 2012

in Technology

When most of us think of what 3D printing means, we probably think of holograms and lenticulars but things are going to get a bit more exciting…

Today just about anyone has the ability to scan a photo or image and then print it off a desk-top printer.  What about the ability to take a 3D scan of an object and then reproduce that scan as a 3D model?  Using the desk-top printer comparison and making it more relevant to our industry, rather than just create a 2D design, how about the ability to create a CAD design on your MAC or PC and then to reproduce an exact 3D model of that design?  It all sounds a bit far-fetched and ‘sci-fi’ but actually it really is very achievable and the technology has been available for a few years. 

If we cast our mind back twenty+ years (for those of us who are old enough to do so), the idea of creating page artwork on screen, as opposed to artwork boards, and to place electronic images within that layout, as opposed to scanning transparencies on a scanner the size of a small family car; would have seemed as unlikely then as it seems today that we can have the facility to produce 3D objects on a desk-top printer.  Twenty years ago we were really just waiting for desk-top publishing technology involved to become cheaper and more accessable,  we are now in the same position with 3D printing.

A 3D printer uses compressed layers of fine powder to reproduce any object within the printable area.  Just as an ink-jet printer head moves back and forth across the paper laying layers of toner, so the printer head runs back and forth fusing the powder together to create the shape of your model.  The powder can be resin, glass, titanium or steel based.

The following YouTube video shows how a resin 3D printer can create an item as complex as a musical instument and demonstrates the precision-engineering accuracy of the modeling.

According to Nesta UK, the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts, the development of 3D printing technology is one of their 12 highlights for 2012, predicting that perhaps many of us will be receiving 3D printed items in our Christmas stockings at the end of the year (read the article here).

We’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on the possible commercial applications for 3D printing, especially related to the graphic communications sector.  Please do send us your ideas via the comments box below.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Martin Stevens January 4, 2012 at 4:11 pm

A1 Technologies sold the very first low cost commercial 3D printer in the world in April 2009, and are leading the global 3D community in bringing together 3D technologies, to allow anyone to design in 3D and then turn that design into a 3D model. Most 3D models are currently designed in 3D CAD (Computer Aided Design), which is fine for 3D CAD users but tough on everyone else! There are now low cost, easy-to-use and quick-to-learn alternatives, which when coupled with a 3D printer or a 5-axis CNC milling machine allow you to both design for your self and then turn that design into a full 3D physical model.


Martyn Dolbear January 4, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Thank you for your comment Martin. I’d be very interested in knowing more about A1 Technologies and your products.


Martyn Dolbear April 3, 2012 at 7:06 am

Chocolate? Who knew!


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