3D Printing traced back to China in 220 AD

Printing has come a long way over the years. Since the first woodblocks emerged in China in 220 AD, printing has rebranded and reinvented itself dozens of times, in line with rapidly advancing technology. 3D printing is one of the newest of these developments, and is sure to revolutionise the industry once again.


What is 3D printing?

3D printing is the process of making a three-dimensional object by building up successive layers of a material. A 3D printer is a type of industrial robot, which follows an electronic model and can produce objects made from a variety of materials, such as plastic, silver or wax. To see a 3D printer in action, watch this documentary by Global News.

What are the benefits of 3D printing?

3D printing is changing the way we do business. Its popularity is increasing and there are already plenty of companies using 3D printers. These include big industry players, such as Boeing, Ford and Nike who are using printed parts for their products.  3D printing is an attractive option for a number of reasons:

  • Reducing transport as production and assembly can take place locally
  • Saving money on import/export taxes
  • Enabling companies to make products as needed, cutting down on unsold items and reducing raw material waste
  • Reducing development and time to market, enabling simultaneous launches worldwide
  • Making it easier to trial products or create one-off models
  • Environmentally friendly

As demonstrated here, 3D printing has the capacity to completely change many aspects of modern manufacturing. It gives manufacturers direct control over the objects they want to produce, from the design stage to point of sale. It is equally suited for bespoke designs as for mass production, and businesses will be able to adapt it to their needs accordingly. 3D printers are also able to create complex shapes and structures that were previously impossible.


How will it change the way we buy things?

As well as helping companies produce parts and products, 3D printing could also change the way we shop. With home 3D printers becoming ever more affordable and available, some believe that the future of commerce will be via downloadable 3D models, that can then be printed in the consumer’s own home. Analysts have highlighted the toy and home ware industries especially as having a lot to gain from this development, as documented by The Guardian, BBC and Wired, although this is still in the early stages. The problem will be the ability to regulate the sharing of 3D models, which as data files are vulnerable to the same piracy issues as music and video.