The following is an excerpt from Malia Spencer's article in the Portland Business Journal...
3D printing, beer and big ideas: The latest OEN PubTalk
Staff Reporter-Portland Business Journal
Oregon Entrepreneurs Network set out last night to answer the question: “Will 3D printing change the world?”
With all the big ideas that this type of discussion elicits, it was a good thing there was beer on hand. OEN Pub Talk participants dissected the topic and concluded that the answer to the question is a bit nuanced.
Yes, they said, but we're still in the early days.
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3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is a hot topic in tech and manufacturing circles. The process involves building items from the ground up, layer by layer, based on 3D computer drawings. Traditional manufacturing, or subtractive manufacturing, creates items by removing material until the desired shape is created.
On Wednesday night OEN brought together local experts in the 3D printing space to talk about what this technology is and how it will change things. The panelists were:
- Kristofer Beem, sales manager for RapidMade, a 3D printing manufacturing and engineering company.
- Matt Crateau, marketing and communications manager for Metal Technology, a specialty alloys manufacturer
- Robb Hunter, an industrial designer for the firm Industry
- Dustin Cramm, founder and lead engineer at Proto-pasta, which makes materials for 3D printers.
The promise of 3D printing is that it can lift constraints placed on our design abilities based on the sheer limits of our traditional manufacturing technology. Or as Beem put it, “The constraints are placed on the tools available. Buildings look the way they do because of the limits of our tools,” he said. “But the tools are changing.”
What happens when manufacturing and machining are no longer the limits for designers? That’s the promise.
However, we aren’t there yet. Printers are still limited to specific materials and the entire industry is still figuring out standards for material specs, reliability and the software that runs it all.
There are machines that can print in human tissue, plastic, ceramic and metals. Hunter showed off the one-of-kind 3D printed, titanium bike that Industry made along with Ti Cycles as the Portland entry for the Oregon Manifest urban bike challenge.
It didn’t win the contest — the popular vote went to Seattle’s entry — but it looked pretty slick.
Building a 3D printed bike was an illuminating experience, Hunter told the crowd.
“There are still limits, it’s still a manufacturing process,” he said of the current technology. There are questions on how to get the strength needed and finishes.
It’s part of the challenge that remains as the technology develops. But, all the panelists thought it will eventually disrupt an array of industries, particularly biomedical and health care(just think about custom implants that can be made cost effectively).
One area that won't be upended but will be augmented is traditional manufacturing, the panel agreed. There will still be items that can be made simply and at scale cheaper with traditional methods, instead of making them individually.
“It will revolutionize manufacturing, but it will be more like enabling existing technology,” Cramm said.