Videos about 3D printing are frequently featured on Facebook news feeds, whether it be 3D printing a robotic arm or a pen that writes in 3D. The secret behind 3D printing’s popularity is its potential—it’s a tool that can be used across many industries and with a high probability of transforming that industry completely. 3D printing can be used in household design, fashion, art, consumer goods, consumer electronics, and even as synthetic limbs.
The charm 3D printing presents us with is its invitation. It’s warm encouragement to think outside the box, to make your dream your reality. Your idea is no longer something just in your head. It is a material thing in front of you.
Many industries in New York are beginning to utilize 3D printing. At the New York Fashion Week last year, fashion designer threeASFOUR released the highly anticipated “Biomimicry” collection that is produced with unique multi-material, multi-color Connex3 3D printing from Stratesy. The material gave the dress durability and flexibility, and has promising uses in various other fields. threeASFOUR’s Gabi Asfour has high hopes for the future of 3D printing in fashion.
“This 3D printing allows us to create a new textile that does not exist…this is a whole new type of movement.”
One piece in the Biomimicry collection, Pangolin, uses the material in a chainmail type of effect where each unit functions by itself, able to be moved and stretched in all four directions.
“Our mission with 3D printing is to encourage designers to imagine without boundaries, empowering them to create avant-garde expressions of fashion. On a larger scale, we want to change the way people think about design and to redefine what is possible,” said Naomi Kaempfer, Creative Director of Art Fashion Design at Stratasys. “Collaborative projects with talented and visionary designers, such as threeASFOUR, are the ideal way to showcase to aspiring designers, students, and creatives the types of organic and complex mathematical structures that can become a physical reality with 3D printing.”
Previously, businesses were confined to a “minimum of production”, a number of goods they must produce in order to break even. Producing only 1 or 2 or even 50 actually cost businesses more per item than producing 5000. This limited the number and styles of designs businesses can produce in order to make a profit. OTHR Design Studio is capitalizing on this print-on-demand model made possible by 3D printing, enabling them to release a new collection of products every two weeks.
“In the past, I’ve worked for companies where we see a great design from a designer but the minimums for production are 5000. So we go, ‘Can we turn 5000 pieces twice this year?’ If the answer is no, we can’t pursue the design no matter how amazing it is.”
OTHR founder Evan Clabots is excited about how 3D printing changes business. “Here, we get to look at an object and we do not have the pressures to produce, warehouse, and turn that inventory. We can turn to more niche areas.”
3D printing promises a lot for consumers as well, who no longer have to compromise with what a store offers regarding their ideal good. Plenty of 3D design files are available online for download. Consumers could download a design they like, tweak it to their preference, and then simply print it at home.
While home 3D printing machines are far from viable for the average person currently, many 3D printing services have popped up in New York City over the years. These printing spaces offer a blend of collaboration, personalized 3D printing, and courses for individuals to learn how to master the art. Some of them are The Makery and 3D Brooklyn, among others. The Makery, in addition to offering a makerspace and workshop classes, also does pop-up exhibits featuring 3D printed artwork made at their space.
Similar to private 3D printing services, the New York Public Library is beginning to offer its own course on 3D printing. Last year, the library teamed up with Shapeways EDU, which is the educational sector of the 3D printing service bureau, to introduce creative New Yorkers to the entrepreneurial side of 3D printing, advanced design software, and 3D printing materials. They hope to get library members interested in the professional side of 3D printing.
Shapeways and the New York Public Library will also create an all-encompassing curriculum for library staff as well, so that they can also offer these courses independent of outside help. With 92 locations and over 18 million patrons, the New York Public Library will soon offer future makers the correct tools and education required to become a 3D printing entrepreneur.
There are still some qualms, however. While 3D printing in New York helps to maintain the city’s reputation as place for possibilities, maintaining a business in New York can be extremely difficult. Just last year, Makerbot, a company that makes affordable 3D printers, announced it was moving its factory to China. The move will allow them not only to cut costs, but also make their 3D printing operations more nimble and help the company advance as 3D printing improves.
“The 3D printing market has been very volatile and we need to be able to scale production up or down more quickly, without the fixed costs associated with maintaining a factory in New York City,” Makerbot’s Johan Broer told the New York Business Journal. “New York is a high cost environment, and businesses need a real valid business reason to stay in New York,” he said. As a product becomes “more scaled up and more routine,” that changes.
3D printing has a bright future inside New York City and out, but it’s down to the companies who harness the technology to make it approachable for non-experts. They have started down this road, so it’s only a matter of time before 3D printing comes to the masses.
The advancement of 3D printing will trigger a third massive Industrial Revolution, and you can find out why here.