June 17, 2015
It’s been nearly 30 years since I first saw a prototype come out of a 3D printer. We had worked on drawings for days before sending them off to be printed. It took all night for this industrial machine to create our little piece; but the next morning it was in front of us and no larger than four quarters stacked on top of each other.
The technology has come a long way since those days in the mid-1980s. For starters you don’t need a warehouse and sophisticated software to house and control a 3D printer; all you need is office space and a laptop. This alone means that this exciting technology is much more accessible to a greater number of people.
And in some cases, it has changed entire industries.
The hearing aid industry for example now completely relies on 3D printing of each person’s unique hearing aid, rather than relying on a mould – the previous standard. The moulds made it challenging to accurately re-create a person’s ear and companies that didn’t make the jump to 3D and change with the times didn’t survive.
3D printing technology hasn’t revolutionized the graphic design industry as it has the hearing aid industry; but what it has done is allowed for a designer’s vision to be seen as it is meant to be seen.
Basically, if we can visualize it, we can print it.
Designers can be more intricate in their designs because creating a prototype can be done on a 3D printer in a matter of hours. So, designers creating anything with a three-dimensional quality can render it as a model rather than as a two-dimensional rendering of a three dimensional concept.
Clients better understand the vision as they can see it, touch it and hold it. Entire projects can go from conception to creation in a much shorter time period.
For most graphic design projects, the concept of creating 3D printed prototypes was too expensive to consider even five years ago. But the now lower cost and simplicity of use means that creatives can showcase their visions in another dimension. And this new ability will only lead to bigger and greater things.