3D printing is a pretty interesting technology now-a-days. However, most people haven't even heard of it! In simple terms, it is essentially the layer by layer assembly of virtually any product through laser melting or gluing powders together. A 3D printer will lay down layers of powder as thin as a few microns onto a build envelope, or the space used to manufacture products. These miniature layers will be melted together, or glued together as each layers is placed on top of each other. A 3D design will be created on a computer and used as the blueprint. So in a nutshell, layers of powder will be stacked on each other and fused together through laser melting or glue. That is 3D printing! This form of manufacturing can produce very unconventional products, as it is free from geometrical design limits. This is great for quite a few industries. One industry I want to cover is the movie industry, and how it is impacted by the 3D printing world.
3D printing has helped the movie industry through the manufacturing of props for use in movies. Some pretty interesting things have come out of 3D printers for movies. 3D printing created the metal gloves used in Iron man 2. Robert Downey Jr's hand was scanned, and the metal globe was created through direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), a form of 3D printing. Pretty fascinating stuff isn't it? Interest props have been developed all across this industry.
This technology has also been involved with the development of certain concept ideas. It has been used as far back as 'Jurassic Park The Lost World,' all the way up to movies used today, such as Iron Man. When jumping into concept ideas, instead of showing producers and financial advisors printed out sheets of paper with designs on it, developers can physically hand them printed out characters. This is great for more than just the movie industry.
When dealing with concept ideas, 3D printing has impacted the video game industry as well. Particularly with the Halo series, character and plot development has been directly impacted with rapid prototyping, also known as 3D printing. This technology is very cool, as it can create small scale products (i.e only 1-2 units opposed to mass manufacturing) without having to hold up an entire factory. Ordering small quantities is not a big deal. Also, these printers can capture some serious detail when creating models. Producers won't have to think twice when running with a design, as they'll know exactly what they're getting into.
It is pretty interesting to see how 3D printing is beginning to impact the world. This technology is affecting medical applications, engineering, product development, character design / concept development, testing, artists, and many other industries. With innovations like this, it is doable for almost anyone to become an inventor. It isn't out of the price range of a college student to have a small scale idea produced!