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Is 3D Printing Overhyped? What You Need To Know

3D printing was introduced in the mid-1980s, but it became popular in 2010 when small 3D printers were first manufactured for home use. At the time, 3D printing was expected to be a revolution. People would start printing whatever they needed, making the 3D printer a must-have item in the home.

3D printing was overhyped because the original printers were too slow and expensive for the average consumer. They also had limitations on the shapes and items they could make. This led many to believe that 3D printing was sold as a revolution prematurely. 

The prospect of 3D printing raised people’s expectations, and unfortunately, it turned out to be a disappointment. However, considering the advancement in technology and success of some 3D printers, you’ll understand why manufacturers have integrated 3D printing for easy and faster prototyping. Keep reading to learn more about how the 3D printing industry was overhyped.

What Aspects of 3D Printing Were Overhyped?

When 3D printers were made available in small sizes, the manufacturers compared them to microwaves and other household appliances. Buyers were made to believe that the 3D printer would disrupt manufacturing since people could make whatever they needed from their homes. It was not to be. 

Usability and simplicity are aspects of 3D printing that were overhyped. Unfortunately, the application process is much more complex, and consumers need basic knowledge in 3D modeling and printer setup. They also need to know the best material to use and understand G-code. 

The cheapest 3D printers have a steep learning curve. What’s seen as marketing hype is a shortcoming in the technology and the oversimplification of the printer, which made it harder to operate. Undoubtedly, 3D printing will eventually overcome its shortcomings. 

Has 3D Printing Lived Up to Its Expectations?

Although 3D printing has faced some hiccups, it has been taken up by some of the large manufacturing industry players because they have seen its benefits. Once you forget the ups and downs of the 3D hype, you’ll find that the technology is very helpful.

3D printing has lived up to its expectations since it has made prototyping easy. Most companies have introduced 3D printing in their manufacturing process, and prototyping is now done in-house and at a cheaper rate. 3D printers also print unique shapes traditionally created using many small pieces.

Industrial 3D printing has certainly lived up to its expectations and even surpassed them. Companies like General Motors have invested heavily in 3D printing and significantly dropped their production costs. 3D printers for home use may still have a long way to go, but people who have mastered the art of 3D printing know that with the right printer and knowledge, 3D printing has lived up to the hype. 

To learn more about the hype behind 3D printing, check out this YouTube video:

Advantages of 3D Printing

3D printing has several advantages, which back the belief that 3D printing is revolutionary. It may not have been a disappointment in many ways, but there’s no doubt, 3D printing has its advantages. These are:

  • 3D printing helps bad ideas fail much faster. Instead of mass-producing a product only to discover the market isn’t enthusiastic about it, most companies have opted to create 3D models to test consumer response. This saves on cost, but more importantly, bad ideas fail faster instead of failing slowly. 
  • 3D printing reduces human error. 3D prints have accurate dimensions, which allow the upper layers to fit accurately. This is why 3D printers can create odd, unconventional shapes and patterns, which are impossible to manufacture as one solid piece. For example, General Electrics started using 3D printed fuel nozzles for their jet engines. These nozzles were traditionally made up of 20 assembled parts. Today, the nozzle is one solid unit.  
  • It is a lifeline for businesses in isolation. Instead of waiting for the delivery of important spare parts, such businesses make what they need using the 3D printer. For example, Made In Space created gravity-independent 3D printers, which astronauts use to print whatever they need, instead of carrying spare parts to the space station. 
  • It saves time. 3D printing has made it easier for companies to build prototypes within a short time and determine if the design is to be changed or not. 
  • 3D printing enables printing on demand. Instead of stocking items that occupy space but are rarely used, 3D printing allows manufacturers to print what they need when they need it. 
  • 3D printing is accessible. 3D printers are more readily available. There are different types of printers, each with unique features to meet the range of demands in 3D printing. 

Challenges of 3D Printing

3D printing has its fair share of challenges, and some people have used these shortcomings to disregard 3D printing. Some of the challenges of 3D printing are:

  • It’s slow. Printing a small model can take hours. Speeding the printer causes it to start stringing, so you have no choice but to let it work slowly, hopefully with positive results. 
  • It has limited material. You don’t have much choice in the material you use. Some printers use filaments of a specific diameter, so you have no choice but to use that. Some filaments are used on specific 3D printers because they require the hot end and the bed to be set at a specific temperature. This limits creativity. 
  • 3D printing is unregulated. Globally, regulators impose conditions for testing parts, especially aerospace and automobile industries. Unfortunately, there’s no established mechanism to test 3D printed items. 
  • The design requires special software. Unfortunately, you can’t just go to your 3D printer, click a button, and then it starts printing. You need to have software which you’ll use to create a design before printing. This is a little difficult for beginners and even seasoned professionals in 3D printing, who sometimes encounter challenges when using the software. 

Conclusion

3D printing may appear to have been overhyped, but it’s also possible that it hasn’t reached its potential. It took half a century for computers to go mainstream. The 3D printing technology has been revolutionary in many ways, and once perfected, will meet the high standards imposed on it a decade ago.