Every technology has limitations. 3D printing is not exempt from this rule. When the technology came out, there was so much hype that you could print just about everything you imagined; food, guns, glasses, limbs, eyes, etc. Even if we are heading in a direction where more and more consumer items are 3D printed, there are many items that will not be printed using 3D technology in the near future.
Here are 5 things that 3D printing can’t print.
- Mass production
3D printers are limited in speed of production. You would have to buy hundreds of 3D printers at over the roof which is not feasible. If you are a business owner and plan to shift your production from conventional means of production to 3D printing, you might have to start with limited edition items and the products with low production runs. Otherwise, 3D print technology has not developed enough for mass production.
- Objects Without Models
This will be the biggest impediment of 3D printing. You could have the 3D printer with you. However, if you do not have the model of the object that you want to produce, it will be useless. Let us take an example; you want to print a broken part of your vacuum cleaner? Where do you start printing?
You would need to be good in computer aided design and know the exact part that is broken. Some of the things that you will check include the dimensions of the part to be printed and the aesthetics of the part. These elements are hard to reproduce if you are not an expert in 3D printing. If you have no design with you, you cannot print anything.
Moreover, the part that you would like to print should be suited for 3D printing. You cannot print items that have no flat parts or have very big overhangs. Due to the fact that you use a nozzle or a syringe to print the parts, it is not possible to print large hanging parts without the parts dropping in the course of printing.
- Items That Require High Precision
3D printers come with limitations in terms of precision. The standard nozzle output is about 0.4 mm. Therefore, if you are planning to print something that is below 0.4mm, you will not get a useful item.
0.4mm is good for many of the consumer products today. However if you would like to replace very small parts such as a broken camera shutter or broken nylon gear in a camera, you will not be successful with 3D printing. There is a new technology called selective laser sintering used to produce very precise items. However, it is still not very effective in producing very small parts.
- Not All Materials That Can Be Printed
Just a few materials can be 3D printed. While technology is growing and many more materials might be used in the future, you cannot print many items as there is no appropriate material for it. Most of the printable materials are materials that can be brought to a semi-molten state so that they come out of the nozzle conveniently. Most of these materials are low temperature melting plastics, metals and several types of pastes. Beyond that, very few materials can be used.
- Tuning The Printer Is Hard
It is easy to change 3D design on your desktop, but difficult to tune your 3D printer to meet the new requirements. Printing 3D objects requires extensive knowledge of software and algorithms. They are not consumer-friendly. You just need to mess a little with the settings and you get an item that is entirely different from what you intended. The hardware set up is also difficult and requires expertise. Therefore, it may not be possible to produce different items from time to time if it requires adjustments in your 3D printer.
Several opportunities still abound for 3D printers. However, there is still so much that you cannot do with your 3D printer. We hope that in the future many of these hiccups will have been dealt with and solved so that we can print just about anything from the comfort of our desks.
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