Mono Culture of 3D Printing

TODAY I came across a couple of renderings on Behance called No Limit, which are an artist impression on how the future of 3D printing could look like. Below is one of the pictures.

What struck me in this rendering is the clear separation of parts to create a whole product. I think it is also one of the biggest challenges in 3D printing. There is a tendency with 3D printing to print a whole product as a single continuous product. But in real-life products are not a single part and there are good reasons for that. The requirements for individual parts are different. No single material is able to match all of the required properties – especially in the limited offering of materials available for 3D printing. It is also one of the reasons why many products made using 3D printing are just not on the same level – visually and functionally – as mass-produced products. The exception is mono-material products like jewelry or ceramics.

It is interesting that there are not many articles available on combining 3D printed parts together to create a product. It is certainly necessary because properties like production tolerances and tensile strength are different for each material and 3D printing method. You cannot just design different parts and expect them to fit. Even made using the same printer with the same material.

It would be awesome to see more compounded parts to create new products. I think it will open much more opportunities to create and manufacture meaningful and useful products using 3D printing.

  • Jim Lamb

    When I went to the “Behance called No Limit” link at http://www.schouwenburg.com/mono-culture-of-3d-printing, the link was bad (Not Found).

    • http://robert.schouwenburg.com/ Robert Schouwenburg

      Oops! WordPress typo. Sorry about that. Thanks for letting me know!

  • http://braddickason.com/ Brad Dickason

    Agreed – multi-material and multi-part objects are really difficult to handle in 3D Printing today… but not in 3D Modeling.

    There are a few members of Shapeways experimenting with this, and the most exciting ones (to me) are using non-3d printed materials mixed in with the traditional SLS and other options.

    For example: http://www.shapeways.com/model/673933/glass-dome-ring-size-7.html?li=productBox-search

    There are alot of ways to deal with this problem, but one of the ones I like the most is putting the onus on the designer. Currently, most 3D Printing services try to take on this work entirely by themselves… but there’s no way the company will know exactly how to source, assemble, and ‘own’ the whole process.

    If we look at the service offered, perhaps it makes sense to ‘outsource’ this work to the designer in question (ala Etsy) until the tech catches up to make that amazing image with the watch work :D

    • http://robert.schouwenburg.com/ Robert Schouwenburg

      Thanks for your thoughts Brad. I tend to disagree to some extent.

      It is not hard for a designer to upload multiple separate parts to Shapeways and sell them as a single combined product. There are many examples on Shapeways of products where one part links to another part already. The opportunity is to make this easier and make it an integrated part of the product creation process at Shapeways.

      The same applies to combining off-site / stock parts like the one mentioned in the example you gave. This is a logistical problem – outside the it-may-not-fit comment – and not a technical or 3D printing problem.

      In the end it is about creating relevant products for consumers. Mono-material objects only cover like 1% of all things out there.

      Of course it would be great if 3D printing could just print a whole object in one go with different materials. But that is still a decade or more away. I would not hold my breath on that. There are many ways 3D printing services can act now and make this happen.