3D Printing and Engineering

November 9, 2016

The popularity of three-dimensional (3D) printing is steadily increasing. With the availability of these printers everyone from hobbyist to engineers have the ability to create 3D designs. Everything from toys to gears to tools in space, houses to fashion, from prosthetics to even food, have been explored.

This technology is creating change in all industries. Studylink shares that the automotive and aerospace industries will benefit from much shorter lead times using 3D printing than with associated traditional engineering methods such as casting or machining. In mechanical and civil engineering, 3D printing will make it possible to produce objects with much more complex structures than traditional manufacturing methods and eventually will become the go-to process for many different areas in manufacturing. 

3D printing is also helping current engineers turn their designs into reality at a faster pace. With more affordable and smaller 3D printers, engineers can quickly prototype concepts and have designs in their hands in hours. New apps are even allowing engineers to transform photos into 3D models.

Student Using 3D PrintingStudents as young as elementary school are designing and testing prototypes with the technology. This teaches the process that engineers face in the real world.

To build the momentum of 3D printing NASA along with a group of partners: Bradley University, Caterpillar, Bechtel, and Brick & Mortar Ventures are holding a competition to create a 3D printed habitat for deep space exploration. The multi-phase challenge is designed to advance the construction technology needed to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth and beyond.

The first phase of the competition, which focused on architectural design concepts, was completed last September. The second of three phases was recently launched with an emphasis on materials. Participants are asked to come up with ways to 3D print structural components from a either a combination of recycled materials and indigenous materials (soil, gravel, etc.) or from indigenous materials alone.

Events like Maker Faire are also encouraging people of all ages to come together and showcase innovation and experimentation across the spectrum of science, engineering, art, performance and craft.

Here is a video from the 2016 Maker Faire in New York showing a few cool things 3D printers can make!

Video courtesy of Ray Pena

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