What is 3D Printing?
In the span of life, 3D printing is relatively new. Both when it was made and even now, this new technology seems like something from the future. Although 3D printing is still “young,” this technology has already proven to be the new “wheel.” 3D printing is quickly making itself known in all the different fields of life and labor. Starting out as an idea strictly for industrial use, 3D printing is now being used in offices and hospitals a like and are even making huge strides in home personal usage. With such a new yet fast growing industry, it’s hard to find someone who was around during the beginning, fortunately I was able to find that special person. John Ouimet is a close family friend and engineering teacher at my old high school, Clayton Valley Charter. At the school, there are two different 3D printers in which Mr. Ouimet and his students can use, so I thought he would be a great person to talk to about 3D printing with. Little did I know, he has been working with 3D printing for over twenty years! Although very busy, Mr. Ouimet was excited when I asked him about doing the interview and was very helpful having so much knowledge on the subject.
Mr. Ouimet was first introduced to 3D printing back in the early 90’s while working at Hughes Aircraft Company, a major American aerospace and defense contractor. While working in the industry, he would also use stereolithography (a form of 3D printing) for prototyping parts to verify they fit in larger assemblies. He would also use 3D printing in wax as investment casting patterns for rapid prototyping. He has since moved on from Hughes Aircraft and is now teaching engineering at Clayton Valley Charter where he is again working with 3D printing.
Mr. Ouimet explained to me that he has always used 3D printing as a tool. Originally at Hughes Aircraft, using it to create prototypes and hands-on examples, and now at Clayton Valley Charter while teaching design and manufacturing; however, he is very excited about it’s use for a more creative/artistic approach. John then went on to say that even in 3D printing’s short lifespan, this new technology has already proven its timelessness. He explained how 3D printing is already benefiting to society by helping designers form and create prototypes faster and cheaper than ever before. Also, the more the medical field adapts 3D printing will only increase its usefulness, as it has already broken down many barriers for surgeries and other medical procedures.
With so many benefits coming from 3D printing, it’s inevitable for there to be some downsides. Mr. Ouimet goes over some of the flaws he believes there are with 3D printing, starting with its accessibility. Although some could argue this is a pro, Mr. Ouimet believes that the accessibility of 3D printers can soon become problematic because of the technology itself. As it is more defined and tweaked, 3D printers will be able to produce stronger and higher quality items, items in which could be harmful or dangerous to the creator and/or the people around them. John then goes on to say that the whole idea of 3D printed fire arms is bad, “It’s all bad, non-traceable weapons, any one print them, can by-pass metal detectors. I feel they should be completely outlawed and any one programing or building should be held responsible.” He then brought up another issue in which I hadn’t yet thought of, “A secondary issue is young people with low end printers at home go on line, find programs then print themselves a gun. Due to low quality materials and process the guns explode on the first shot and injure themselves.” So, although 3D printing has much promise, there is still a lot that needs to be fixed and refined for them.
It is no surprise to anyone that 3D printing is this new and cool technology, able to create something out of (relatively) nothing. It is not until you fully learn about 3D printing that you can truly appreciate it and realize it’s potential. 3D printing has been around for a lot longer than people know and has only recently been getting mainstream attention. I was lucky enough to talk to Mr. Ouimet and get a true understanding of 3D printing from a person who’s been around it since the beginning. As time goes on and this new technology is redefined and fixed, I can now look back and appreciate where it all came form.