Manufacturing used to be an expensive endeavor which required large amounts of real estate and inventory. Thanks to 3D scanner modeling devices, the process today has been greatly simplified. For those unfamiliar with the technology, 3D printing involves taking plastic or metal (although other materials can be used, depending on the printer), placing it on the printer, and then connecting the device to a computer containing a 3D model of the desired object. From there, over the course of a few hours or days, the printer will work to shape the material into the desired object.


More Accessible Than You Think

Although 3D printing used to be expensive and complex, today even a hobbyist can pick up a 3D scanner modeling device that will work with his computer for just a few thousand dollars. TechCrunch even discusses how Microsoft is jumping into the 3D printing scene by releasing a free 3D modeling tool for Windows 8.1 users. The tool is fairly limited, however, and isn’t intended to replace a traditional 3D tool such as AutoDesk. But the fact Microsoft is embracing this technology helps to illustrate the importance of this emerging field.

In the meantime, if you don’t have the budget for a high-end tool such as AutoDesk, the free tool Blender has a Printing Toolbox designed to allow 3D printing from the software.

Practical Uses

One of the most common questions people ask when they hear about 3D printing is, “Why does this matter, and what are some practical uses of this technology?” The answer to this question is that when it comes to 3D printing, the sky is the limit. One of the best cases that comes to mind is printing a product prototype yourself rather than paying thousands to an outside specialist for the same item. You can even scan a product part and print a new one if desired.

For the time being, the objects you can print are relatively small (around the size of your hand). But as 3d scanner modeling technology is maturing rapidly, you should keep an eye on such systems. They will only improve in the coming years.

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