The 3D printing industry has been on a roll this week. Shapeways and Continuum made headlines by selling a custom 3D printed Bikini. And even the CEO of Makerbot, Bre Pettits, appeared on political humorist Stephen Colbert's Comedy Central show this week to talk about 3D printing. All of this attention is great for the 3D printing industry, but despite the positive press, most people don't know why they should care about the process and what they would use it for.
If you're the type of person who likes to make or fix things yourself, then 3D printing is right up your alley. The process itself is relatively cheap and offers the DIY type an affordable way to repair or replace broken items on the cheap. For example, if something breaks with a regular manufactured product, replacing even a minor part can cost an arm and a leg when purchasing from name brand manufactures. While the part itself may be inexpensive, the company can charge more for the part because that is where the majority of people turn for replacement parts. However, if you can get a digital model of the part, you can possibly 3D print the part for a fraction of the cost.
Also, if you happen to be making your own product, 3D printing offers a substantially cheaper option for prototyping since you can easily iterate without spending a fortune of injection modeling or other processes with high set-up costs.
The biggest advantage of 3D printing is that in the end you get exactly what you want. While parts that are mass manufactured are made to suit the masses, 3D printing allows you to customize parts to fit your specifications. So if you want your own custom light shade, you can design it digitally and have it printed to your specifications. Before 3D printing, creating your own custom decor design would not have even been a possibility. Today it is a reality.
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