Fascinating isn’t it, the prospect of producing 3D objects from a computer file. Imagine turning to a home computer to pop out a replacement part for the vacuum cleaner or spare key for the cat sitter. 3D print could possibly be set to change our lives forever!
It has certainly caught the imagination of the media. We’ve seen example objects from art instillations complete with moving parts, to perfectly formed prosthetics replacing missing body parts. Of course the medium hasn’t escaped controversy as it’s still possible to print out a working hand gun, but it’s fair to say that print of all kinds can be explosive in the wrong hands.
It seems that we’re only bound by our imagination and the substrates we can form and fuse at will. Though while the prospect of a 3D printed Pizza or Burger doesn’t appeal to me, I do appreciate the possibility of a real world application for 3D printed food in the future.
The global market for 3D Print related sales was valued $2.3B in 2013 and is anticipated to reach $8.6B by 2020*, and much of this rise is due to the affordability of desktop 3D printing kit. Now almost anyone can experiment at home. For instance, I have a very smart and credible relative, who’s a specialist software developer for his day job, but is designing and developing a full size, 3D printed Electric Car from the kitchen table in his spare time. Now that’s thinking big!
The impact on the 2D printing industry has been minimal so far, though some wags have 3D printed their own Letterpress Printing Press complete with 3D printed fonts which brings thing full circle somewhat.
So, are Wood Richardson investing in 3D printing? Well, not just now. The technology is fascinating, but the commercial applications just aren’t there for us. Besides, it’s a big jump from printing in volume to one off unique pieces. Not really what a print factory is all about, unless you’re talking about toner on paper. Printing complete bound books with text and images in place in one process would be a fascinating prospect though.
We can however (and always have for that matter) turn 2D printed paper into some amazing 3D objects. Don’t forget that a simple rectangular piece of paper can successfully be folded to make; a hat to protect you from the sun, a cup to drink water from or a bowl to eat from. In China, people have been turning printed paper into 3D objects for centuries, though personally I’d need a computer to guide me through some of those origami folds!
We are experts in printing & die cutting board to form; cartons, pocket folders, wallets and Point of Sale Leaflet holders, dispensers and lots of other paper constructed items, but we’re not going to be moving from 2D to 3D just yet. The advent of a 3D printing device that can deliver near 13,000 items per hour like our 6 colour CD74 press would be exciting though! In the meantime, watch this 3D space.