As an industrial designer, 3D printers play an integral part in how I design products. Since my college education involved working with 3D printers, it’s no surprise that I quickly became the primary 3D printer operator at BeraTek Industries.
3D printing, or “additive manufacturing,” can be simply defined as, “a process in which successive layers of material are deposited by computer control to shape a three-dimensional object.” Although this technology has existed since the 1980s, 3D printers have only caught the attention of the general population in the past 5 years or so. This recent rise in 3D printer popularity is making waves throughout all corners of the manufacturing industry.
Here are three major ways 3D printing is influencing product design:
- The first and possibly most influential benefit of 3D printers for product design is the ability to print a near-perfect product prototype within hours. Rapid prototyping has always been a part of product design, but in the past, it was limited to models made of foam, wood, or any other material available. These models work to an extent, but would never be as accurate as a 3D printed model. This is not to say that building prototypes by hand is not beneficial today. By not printing, a designer or engineer could build multiple iterations of the prototype within the same time it takes for one 3D printed model to be completed.
- People of various fields and backgrounds are now able to design and produce their own products from the comfort of their homes. BeraTek Industries itself became a reality thanks to in-home 3D printing technology. The “Maker” movement where individuals are selling their own 3D printed products has made quite an impact on how products come to market.
- 3D printing has had a huge influence on the distribution of products and ideas. Now with 3D printing technology, if a product needs to be sent somewhere far away for testing; instead of sending the physical part, a computer file can be sent instantly and printed at its destination. Cost and wait time for product development are drastically decreased with 3D printing technology.
A great real-world example of this concept is the use of 3D printers by NASA. Say an astronaut needs a custom tool to complete a certain task. Thanks to 3D printers being installed in the Space Station, NASA can create and send the file for that brand-new tool to the astronaut instantly. Within a couple hours, that astronaut can have the exact tool they need to complete their task; no need to wait for an expensive, periodical supply run from Earth.
We will soon be expanding our 3D printing capabilities at BeraTek! If you’d like to learn more about our 3D printing and prototyping services or have an idea you’d like to have 3D printed, contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Authored by Kaelan Abernathey, Industrial Designer at BeraTek Industries.