Over the last couple of months, Canadian entrepreneur Rylan Grayston has gone viral for his Kickstarter campaign to create a 3D ‘Peachy Printer’ that would retail for just $100 (Canadian Dollars). It took only a couple of days for Grayston to reach his $50,000 funding goal, and the Peachy Printer currently has more than $650,000 in pledges. So why is there such momentum around 3D printing technology?
In contrast to traditional manufacturing in which pieces are cut away from the raw material, 3D printing is ‘additive’, meaning material is added in layers to create a far more efficient product. Once a file is sent to the printer, it simply deposits printed material onto a platform, adding a new layer with each pass that bonds itself with the layer before. 3D printers range in size and materials printed, but can include plastic resins, metals, paper, etc.
This shift to 3D printing effectively removes the manual labour required to put the product together, ‘one-offs’ can be created as quickly as a design file is completed. For a traditional manufacturing industry based on ‘run minimums’, this represents a large disruption and puts a lot more power in the hands of designers.
Sydney Design Award winner ‘The Pigtail’, is an example of a product with the kind of intricate shape and structure that would simply not have been possible prior to 3D printing. The Pigtail is a guitar hanger that allows guitarists to securely hang their guitar in a closet at arms reach. This saves space and makes the guitar more accessible, distinct advantages for urban apartment dwellers.
Whilst The Pigtail might seem intuitively simple, a large amount of experimentation is required to produce natural, stable shapes. Traditional manufacturing demands a number of different pieces be cut and joined together, yet The Pigtail was created from just a single steel rod (with a soft plastic coating).
Printing The Pigtail…
“3D printing was fundamental to our business plan and strategy. By handling all of our functional design and prototyping in-house, we cut our costs down dramatically which enabled us to manufacture locally — limiting the complex logistics of several design iterations and overseas manufacturing. We would not have been able to bring our product to market without this do-it-yourself strategy”.
Christopher Saunders, Managing Partner at The Cap Hanger Co
Instead of burning time and cost on a traditional manufacturing run, 3D printing allowed The Pigtail team to literally print prototypes from the desktop. After experimenting and refining the design using the printed prototypes, the company was then able to manufacture locally, without the need for costly overseas shipping and production runs.
In her Primer On 3D Printing, Lisa Harouni imagined a more sustainable future in which far more intricate designs are able to bring large leaps forward to traditional manufacturing of medical implants, automotive engines, etc. A future where custom products can be printed locally and people are able to download and print spare parts. Whilst that future might still be a little way off, The Peachy Printer and The Pigtail suggest the 3D printing manufacturing revolution is already well underway.