We're super excited to tell you about our latest foray into cutting-edge technology: 3D printing! We recently acquired a CubePro Duo from Cubify, which prints 2.5 times larger than any other desktop prosumer and hobbyist printer (11.2" x 10.6" x 9.06" or 285.4mm x 270.4mm x 230mm) with ultra high-resolution settings of 70-micron thin print layers in up to two colors per print.
We've had a lot of fun experimenting with this new piece of tech – which you'll see a little later – but first it's important to explain just what in the heck 3D printing means.
3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) is the process of making solid three dimensional objects from a digital file. The creation of a 3D object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process, an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the entire object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.
"It all starts with creating a virtual design of the object you want to print," said Bill McCown with The Idea People. "This virtual design is made in a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file using a 3D modeling program (for the creation of a new object) or with the use of a 3D scanner (to copy an existing object). A 3D scanner makes a 3D digital copy of an object, which can then be duplicated precisely using a 3D printer."
To prepare a file for printing, the 3D software “slices” the model into hundreds or even thousands of horizontal layers. Once the sliced file is uploaded to a 3D printer, the object can be created layer by layer. The 3D printer reads every slice and creates the object, blending each layer with hardly any visible sign of the layers. The result is a three dimensional object.
It's cool technology, but why would you use 3D printing? Applications include rapid prototyping, architectural scale models and maquettes, film props and even prosthetics. 3D printers have also been used to reconstruct fossils and replicate ancient artifacts. In forensic pathology, a 3D printer can reconstruct bones and body parts or heavily damaged evidence from crime scene investigations.
Our first test drive with the CubePro Duo was printing a model of Shoe, a character from the 3D stop-motion animated fantasy-comedy film The Boxtrolls. You can see the printing of this gnarly looking little dude below, thanks to some excellent time-lapse photography from our TIP video team:
According to 3Dprint.com, the 3D printing field is expected to grow more than 14% annually to become an $8.4 billion industry by 2020. Does your company need a 3D printer? Are you interested in exploring all the ways this technology can benefit your business and its customers? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter, or just drop us a line at Jay@theIdeaPeople.com!