Being able to create a physical object out of a three-dimensional digital image sounds like something that could only happen in science fiction. Yet it’s a reality that’s possible through additive manufacturing, widely known as 3D printing. The “printing” here isn’t the kind of traditional printing we’d normally think of where a printer deposits ink onto some kind of material. This printing process entails the creation of a tangible object out of some form or plastic or alloy, one layer at a time.
Many industries have adopted this ability to create products based on 3D images, including the medical, biotech, automotive and engineering fields, and even in jewelry making and fashion. The manufacturing procedure known as micro molding, which is the process by which tiny components used as internal parts for high-tech devices, has played a role in many of these same industries. The arrival of 3D printing has raised the concern as to what kind of an impact it will have on the micro molding field. Here we’ll look at where these manufacturing endeavors overlap and what the future holds for both of them.
The New Era of 3D Printing
If you come across any examples of a 3D printing project, the results are impressive. They’re also wide ranging, encompassing intricately designed machinery parts, plastic toys, running shoes and even electric guitars. As long as you have a three-dimensional image, or have the ability to create one, and a printer with the right capabilities, you can create just about anything. Some predict that in the decades to come 3D printing will be able to create objects out of living cells, such as blood vessels, to replace damaged tissue.
Currently, some online businesses have already dedicated themselves to printing 3D products for clients who’ve created their own designs. This means that the traditional supply chain approach to manufacturing isn’t the only strategy for bringing a product to market. A potential entrepreneur is no longer required to gather the same amount of funding as manufacturing depended upon in the past. The economic effect of 3D printing will be unfolding in the years to come, and businesses may find changes occurring in the demands for their services.
Micro Molding’s Role in this Era
The rise of 3D printing has the potential to directly affect the micro molding industry. However, despite the functionality that 3D printing can offer, micro molding will likely continue to occupy a solid place in the manufacturing field. Engineers and designers require ultra-tiny parts that not even 3D printing can create, and some businesses require that the finished product have a certain texture or durability that 3D printing can’t duplicate. When it comes to certain tasks, some have compared micro molding to other processes to determine just how well it stacks up, and it often outperforms these other processes for specific tasks, including 3D printing.
Combining Technology and Creativity
The use of 3D printing as a means of producing plastic or metal objects is a stunning innovation and will have an impact on many businesses. Both 3D printing and micro molding share some overlapping common ground, yet micro molding will continue to be able to meet demands that no other manufacturing solution can deliver. The laptops, phones and hand-held devices we use and depend on all use tiny components created using micro molding techniques. These lightweight, portable electronics are just one example of what micro molding is creating today, and it’s possible that the functionality of this technology will increase in the years to come.
We’ll have to wait and see what kind of social impact 3D printing will have as it becomes more widespread and people become more familiar with what it can do. Experts in many different fields will explore this sci-fi-like ability to manufacture a physical, useful object from an image; we’ll all see, eventually, how disruptive, beneficial or benign its arrival will be.