3D printing is about to revolutionise our lives. The technology has even begun popping up at our favourite fashion-focused events like Ascot, in the form of an incredibly chic hat, by Gabriela Ligenza.
How it works:
Just like an inkjet printer, really. Only a 3D printer prints layers, like horizontal cross-sections, of materials like nylon, substrates, molten metal, even pizza dough, (yes, you can print your own pizza) on top of each other to create a three dimensional object. It works by making a 3D image then printing each slice on top of the last, starting from the bottom.
The printing machines can create replicas of existing objects, or can print computer-aided designs that you can download, or create yourself.
Why it works:
It’s cost effective. 3D printing allows you to make pretty much anything you can think of in any number of variations. In production terms, that means you can print a thousand toys, each with its own variation (one eye, three eyes, three legs? Whatever.), as opposed to making a mould that only works for one of the toys. So, as it stands, you end up making a thousand of the same product, which is not necessarily what’s needed. Why? Because its cheaper and easier.
Alex Newson, curator at London’s Design Museum explains:
‘Conventional production techniques do not really allow for individual customisation. The large investment in initial set-up costs to make mass produced objects, requires the products to be sold in tens or hundreds of thousands in order for them to be profitable. While the cost of making a single product could be enormous, after the same factory has made and sold a million, the cost of each could be as little as a few pence.
‘3D printing is different and these traditional economies of scale do not apply. Essentially meaning the costs of printing are the same, whether you are making one or one thousand objects. A key aspect of this is that you could print each of those thousand objects differently at no extra cost.’
Why we’re sold:
Accessibility and customisation. Grace Choi, founder of the Mink 3D make-up printer told The Cut: ‘I had this crazy-ass idea and was like, “It would be really cool if I were browsing a magazine, and I could just click on my tablet and make my makeup.” And this is pretty much how it’s going to play out.
‘Hats could be designed and customised by the wearer, shoes can be made to conform precisely to an individual’s foot or the grip on a tennis racquet could be bespoke for the user.
‘Prior to 3D printing customised goods were only really available as individually handmade – and therefore expensive – products. There is now an alternative process that can offer genuine mass customisation,’ Newson says.
Anything your heart desires. The great thing about 3D printing is that you can literally make anything; man-made bones and organs, to musical instruments, to chocolate, to cars, to guns (not so great), to sex toys.
3D printers are not being sold as household goods, yet, but inventors like Grace Choi are working to create printer prototypes that are affordable and sized practically enough to go in your own home. The world will soon be your 3D-printed oyster.