What the heck are 3D printers used for?

I am going to assume that if you’re reading this, your knowledge of 3D printers is relatively slim. You’ve probably heard of them, but you’re asking yourself - with these things costing hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars, why would anyone use them?

Here’s your answer:

3d prnters

Prototyping new designs
Getting a new product made is an arduous task. To start, the engineers need to sketch out the design plans. Surprisingly, that’s the easiest part.

The next step is sending those plans to a manufacturer, and then making sure that the manufacturer understands each and every design specification down to the letter. Especially if it’s a complex product, even the slightest misunderstanding can result in something incorrect.

Misunderstandings between engineers and manufacturers happen all the time. When something goes wrong, a company has to spend weeks (if not months) sorting the problem out, because remember - packages take weeks or months to go from China to the western world.

3D printers get rid of all that headache. The engineers take the design, load it into the printer, and out comes a prototype. Sure, they probably get the actual product created overseas, but for testing purposes, 3D printers work just fine.

Creating art and other design work
You have to remember that plastic is completely moldable. You can dye it, morph it into any design you wish, and considering the complexity of 3D printers, you can make it pretty darn intricate.

This is conducive to creativity. You can literally design anything you want, and then print it out right in front of your eyes.

Websites like Shapeways are leading the way in selling this artwork. Assuming you have a 3D printer, you can go on Shapeways and browse the artwork - it ranges from egg holders all the way to wall clocks. Then, if you like it, all you do is buy the design and load it into your machine. A couple of minutes later, the art is right in front of your eyes - no wait times, no shipping fees, no nothing.

Just useful stuff
Take a look around you. What’s made out of plastic?
There’s probably quite a bit. That lamp? Yeah, it can be made with a 3D printer. That water bottle? Yep, that too.

But then, there’s a lot of stuff that can be made with 3D printers that we don’t even consider. If you’re not a parent, you probably don’t have baby furniture in your house… but if you have a decent 3D printer, you’d be able to print everything for your kid. His crib. His plastic cutlery. His chair that he uses that cutlery in.

See where this is headed? Anything that’s plastic can be made with a 3D printer. Not only that, but industrial ones can make things out of metal and glass… some can even cook food. Right now ones at home can only handle plastic, but we’re getting to the point where anything, regardless of material, will be able to be printed from a 3D printer.