Why 3D Printing?

I’m sure that most everyone by now has heard of 3D printing. And you’ve heard the pro 3D printing people say things like “You can print anything!” and the detractors say “It’s only good for making plastic cartoon heroes!”.

As always, the truth is somewhere in between. Yes, 3D printing can be used to make statues of comic book heroes (see the 14″ tall Hulk on my Welcome page), But 3D printing can also be used to make many usable and useful things. I’ve made replacement ladder feet from flexible filament, shelf brackets from cheap PLA filament, and mounts and brackets for cars from PETG and ABS and replacement knobs, dials and buttons for household electronics and appliances.

And where 3D printing isn’t appropriate for the final part, it can still play a valuable role. And that role is fast prototyping. For a small part, something that will fit in your hand, I can go from design to having a finished prototype in my hand in anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. I can test fit this part, tweak the model in the software, reprint it until I have exactly what I want. Then I can go to the CNC mill, or to someone who has one, taking the final part and the 3D file, and have it made from whatever I want. No waiting many days or even weeks and no huge expense to get your prototype ready for the machinist.

And with new filaments and processes coming out almost every month, the ability to get the final part you want off the 3D printer sitting in your workshop or office, is becoming more a reality every day.

So when someone tells you that a 3D printer is only good for making small figurines of video game characters, you can tell them differently.

Chuck

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