By now, we’ve all heard somewhat about the revolution that is 3D printing. The Financial Times has reportedly described it as being bigger than the internet, whilst even sceptics are realising its potential across the manufacturing and engineering industries.
We could see the future of 3D printing changing the way we live our lives, from how we design, manufacture, distribute and receive goods. This new technology could address centuries long economic issues that have plagued under-developed countries, whilst providing exciting opportunities for others. Keep reading as we take a look at the impact of 3D printing on traditional engineering and as a result, how its future will change.
What is 3D printing?
Often described as additive manufacturing, the process of 3D printing combines layers of material, mostly plastic, to create a physical object from a 3D digital model. Due to its flexibility, there are many uses for 3D printing – the International Space Station at NASA for example, regularly uses 3D printing to create tools, so astronauts don’t need to fly them into space.
The advantages of 3D printing
The speed and versatility that comes with the technology behind 3D printing means even through unforeseen delays and disasters, such as a global pandemic, production is still able to continue.
It also enables engineers and other designers to create much more intricate projects that respond to the needs of customers at that moment in time, such as ventilators, masks and spare parts.
3D printing has the capacity to bring the end product closer to the user, in a shorter and more efficient time frame. We could see the end of supply chains and excessive stock piling – having to wait weeks for an order from across the world could become a thing of the past. Less shipping and a reduction in waste also means pressure on the environment is relieved.
The impact on engineering
3D printing will undoubtedly have an irreversible impact on almost every industry- from aerospace engineering to retail. Why? Because 3D printing is being used for more than just prototyping.
The potential of 3D printing is being placed into the hands of anyone who can afford the cost, enabling a new wave of engineers and designers to emerge. This will undoubtedly lead to an improvement in local economies, more job opportunities and a better quality of life.
It also means we should expect to see more entrepreneurship with the cost of production reduced, thanks to 3D printing. According to ZD Net: “When you can take an expense and reduce it to just 2-4% of its previous cost, innovation increases because the cost of risk decreases.” And with crowd funding sources, such as GoFundMe, at an all time high, anyone can make their products into a reality.
Unfortunately as with most technology, its efficiency continues to make more people redundant, particularly at the production stage. As the process of 3D printing becomes more accurate, companies will focus their revenue on automated machinery, rather than on an assembly line filled with workers.
And perhaps further into the future we should expect to see changes to our high streets and how we purchase goods from these stores. It may not seem completely exaggerated to imagine a world where we download a template of a design and print the product out at home. Many stores will no longer see the value of a bricks and mortar space and to save on overheads, will make the move online to offer digital designs.
However, as we see traditional jobs disappear, there’s no denying we should expect a demand in new skills that will lead to more job opportunities. At Walsall College, we can help you stay ahead of the changes with our engineering courses that use the very latest industry standard equipment.
Apply now to secure your place for September. See our Engineering courses.