We've been hearing promises that 3D-printing could revolutionize almost every aspect of our daily lives, from how we shop to the food that ends up on our plates. But is one of its biggest benefits going to be largely invisible to most of us?
After looking at these two, rather marvelous, 3D printed fuel injectors that NASA just successfully tested, a discussion began about how quickly the technique was able to cut down on fabrication time and labor — and whether 3D-printing might actually see less use in the home, and more use as a manufacturing tool:
This might be the unnoticed benefit of all forms of 3D fabricators.
Maybe it's not the low level consumer grades stuff we should be looking at. Maybe instead we should be looking at the major manufacturers and big businesses. If, for example, a major aerospace company can make rocket and jet nozzles more cheaply and reliably by this method than by old manufacturing techniques this might reduce old costs.
As an engineer it is generally known that the main benefit of 3D printing for the near and medium term has always been in engineering and industrial uses. 3D printing is great for low volume items such as complex rocket parts (That is if the material it prints is up to snuff. I believe SpaceX uses a type of Inconel in their 3D printed rocket parts) It is not great for High or even medium volume items. It takes too long.
And for building prototypes to test and experiment with.
What do you think? Will 3D-printing's biggest impact be in the home, the factory, the lab, or some combination thereof? Also, have you done any 3D-printing yourself? Tell us about it — and how successful it was — in the comments.
Image: Subhashish Panigrahi