Sign & Digital Graphics

November '15

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S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S • November 2015 • 41 ing is also used for rapid manufactur- ing. Companies employ 3D printers for short-run custom manufacturing. The printed objects are not prototypes but the actual end user products. 3D printing can offer a cost effective alternative to producing and storing large inventories of parts. Print-on-demand is gradually working its way into the market place. Personal printing Domestic 3D printing for artists and hobbyists saw a surge in growth in 2011. And because of the new demand, the cost of a home-based 3D printer has dramatically decreased. Currently prices range from $250–$2,500 (see Figure 7). Printing 3D objects at home or in a studio on a small 3D printer that an artist scans with a hand held scanner or designs in a 3D modeling program is very rewarding form of sculpture, and work of this kind is rapidly becoming prevalent in art galleries and museums. RepRap is an open-source project that fed the home 3D printer market. A RepRap 3D printer kit can be purchased for around $1,000 and assembled by the end user (see Figure 8). The RepRap website and blog ( has a ton of information shared by its mem- bers who have purchased and built kits. Improvements to the machines and printing techniques have developed over time from the shared input of the RepRap community. The Future 3D printing technology has the potential to change the nature of manu- facturing as 2D digital printing did in the 1990s. End users will be able to do much of their own manufacturing. Currently 3D printers can print in color with mul- tiple materials, and they will continue to evolve. It's entirely conceivable that if you need a product you will be able to purchase a 3D file online and print the product at home. The dramatic affect on energy use, waste reduction, custom- ization, product availability, medicine, art, industrial design, construction and science is already being felt and will no doubt grow in future. SDG Figure 6: In April 2015 a milestone in additive manufacturing occurred when the FAA cleared the first 3D component to fly in a commercial airliner—a housing for a compressor inlet tem- perature sensor on a Boeing 777 aircraft. Figure 7: The MakerBot Replicator Mini is a 3D printer designed for home use. Figure 8: The Prusa i3 model metal frame 3D printer, built from a RepRap printer kit.

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