Enthusiasm for 3D printing is growing in leaps and bounds as different industries create their own uses for the technology.
While the flexibility is one of its key advantages, the scalability is another feature winning over users throughout Australia and around the world. Everyone from major corporations like Coca Cola to one-man startups are finding innovative and disruptive uses for 3D printers.
From hobbies and toys to life-saving healthcare developments, 3D printing is proving itself as an invaluable tool for designers that need a cheap and quick way to manufacture physical products. Here are just a few of the ways the technology is being used around the world.
3D printing as a hobby
Products like the Ultimaker 2 are perfect for either first-time experimenters or businesses looking to supplement their design workflow with the latest in technological innovation.
They're also the ideal product to spark a new hobby or enhance and existing one, with creative individuals across the world integrating them with their interests.
A number of user-created projects have proven there's no limit to the complexity 3D printers can offer. Building model vehicles has been a well-loved hobby for decades, and users are now able to bring technology to the classic past time.
One enterprising YouTube user by the name of Sariel specialises in making Lego models of boats and dune buggies, and discovered these could be further transformed using 3D printed components. Rather than sticking to something simple like extra body panels, Sariel found he could integrate 3D-printed suspension units into these models.
In another example, Sariel added 3D-printed propellers to a model boat, allowing it to drive.
Could he have stumbled on the future of component production with these miniature versions? If the techniques work on this scale, there's no reason why they couldn't be scaled up in the future.
How are larger companies embracing technology?
The beauty of 3D printing is that there is a use for everyone that possesses the imagination necessary to get the most out of it. A recent report from Gartner revealed the devices are set to revolutionise the medical implant industry, providing healthcare specialists with devices that can be easily tailored to a patient's needs.
However, this range of complex medical requirements that need to be considered when producing these items. Because of this, Research Director Michael Shanler believes it could be a while before the technique becomes commonplace to the industry.
"The sheer complexity of the items to be printed and the high maintenance requirements of these systems mean that initial deployments will be mostly limited to specialist service providers," he said.
"We see mainstream adoption increasing as the systems become more diverse in their functions."
Despite this, the technology has still proven it is capable of providing unique and tailored solutions and isn't limited in its complexity.
In fact, the technology seems to thrive in situations where it is pushed to its limits, with the aerospace industry latching on to its uses as well. SpaceX - the company founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk - managed to 3D print part of an engine that will eventually take a rocket into space.
Mr Musk said there were a range of benefits in integrating 3D printing into the design process.
"Through 3D printing, robust and high-performing engine parts can be created at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional manufacturing methods," he said.
"SpaceX is pushing the boundaries of what additive manufacturing can do in the 21st century, ultimately making our vehicles more efficient, reliable and robust than ever before."
To explore how 3D printing can make a difference to your design process, download our recent whitepaper.
Redstack offer a range of 3D printing solutions, offering both MakerBot and Ultimaker 3D printers. If you would like more information, contact us or visit store.redstack.com.au to purchase your own 3D printer today.