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3D Printing - The Overview

11/03/2014
Kyle Rennaker

Imagine having to fix a broken computer part or a plastic light switch cover, but instead of going to the store, one just prints it from their own computer. Welcome to the world of 3D printing. By having a 3D computer model, some type of material (plastic, stainless steel, or sterling silver to name a few), and a 3D printer, anyone could print anything out, at any giving moment.

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing,has been around for nearly thirty years. Invented by Chuck Hull in 1984, it has grown exponentially over the past decade. 3D printed products can be found in many different fields, such as aerospace, medical, and dental. Just recently, the 3D market has entered into the commercial and residential markets which have led to a boom in personal 3D printers. Personal 3D printers are being sold for around $3,000, but much larger industrial size ones are going for much more. It's here to stay, and some experts claim it will be leading the charge in a new industrial revolution.

Currently, the majority of parts and pieces being printed are typically made of plastics and metals. This alone can be very beneficial to the cabinet industry. By creating an endless possibility, it will actually improve the design process. Nothing will be off limits or restricted because of "standard" sizes and shapes in terms of parts and pieces. With the power of 3D printing, a company can produce fixture specific custom pieces. Every company has come across the issue with a customer when they are in need of something yesterday, and with 3D printing, printing that one part that would typically take 2-3 weeks to acquire can easily be printed in a minimal amount of time. Recently, with certain companies experimenting with wood 3D printers, the possibility of a future with 3D printed cabinets might not be that farfetched.

With bigger companies getting into the 3D printing business, such as the recent announcement of Hewlett-Packard entering the industry, it could be the boost that this new industrial revolution needs. What the future holds is still a mystery. But one thing is for certain, 3D printing is here to stay.