As printers we are always interested in finding out about new technologies and opportunities. We keep a close eye on the latest developments in the printing industry. There are many things which are referred to by the term Printing, but when you look closer you find that they are desktop based printing. The type of thing which you need a single copy of for short-term use.
For us printing is more of a commercial undertaking where we print something for a client – something that the client would not be able to do for themselves. These jobs usually require a bit more technical capability or quality – something which is beyond the reach of the man-in-the-street.
Here at House of Print we have spent a lot of time, money and effort to ensure that we can offer our customers the very best quality and turnaround times. However, there is a new technology on the market which allows 3D items to be “printed”. Printing might be the wrong word, but it has been accepted, as the “image” is laid down one layer at a time, in the same way as printing inks are laid down. When we say that 3D printing is a new technology, it is actually not that new. It was first discussed as far back as the 1990’s but no one really took it seriously.
The first 3D printers were huge, cumbersome, unreliable machines and the cost of each print was astronomical, making the prints a novelty. However, as with all technology, the printers have become smaller, the costs have reduced, and the number of variations and capabilities are increasing. Many of the 3D printing systems were developed by companies not previously associated with traditional printing. That is changing. Ricoh recently announced that it is developing a 3D printer which will initially be sold in the Japanese market, but with the aim of going global in time.
Apart from the novelty aspect, 3D Printing started out being used as a tool for developing prototypes. It allows items to be designed which previously had to be forged or milled in order for a prototype to be created. Now a 3D print can form the base shape for a mould allowing speciality parts to be constructed. The novelty aspect still exists and is even growing. The combination of 3D scanners and printers means that you can have a full-body scan or yourself done and, within a few hours, you can have a small statue of yourself printed.
However, there are other options – 3D printers are being built with Bio-printing capabilities. This is the ability to “print” viable replacement organs using genetic material taken from a patient who needs a transplant in order to build a new organ.
While this is certainly printing, it is likely to be a long, long time before we at House of Print try to print you a new ear or heart. Even so, we find it heartening to know that print is very much “alive”.