3D Printing is the sexy new buzzword in design these days. It’s responsible for revolutionising concepts across a number of fields, from medicine to engineering, and from fashion to product design.
Previously a niche technology used primarily for rapid prototyping, 3D printing is fast becoming an accessible and feasible means to manufacture your ideas affordably and in a short space of time. What’s more, it’s available right here, in South Africa. DECO asked Kenneth van Rensburg, owner of KVR Design, to give us the scoop.
In the same way that Michelangelo’s David started out as a block of marble that was slowly chiselled away, most rapid prototyping processes are subtractive, meaning that material is typically carved or machined away from a billet of virgin material. These processes are powerful, but are limited when faced with complex geometries, negative spaces or internal details. They also often require multiple pieces to be manufactured individually, which are later fitted together to form a final product.
Instead, 3D printing (an umbrella term for a number of additive manufacturing processes), ‘grows’ models layer by layer. A 3D printer reads data from a 3D file, of your product or idea, from your computer. The software then digitally slices the 3d model into a number of horizontal ‘layers’ and the machine is then able to replicate each layer, physically: one at a time, from the bottom up. As each layer binds to the previous one, the cumulative thin layers are transformed into a tangible, three-dimensional replica.
Think of it as what wasps and swallows have been doing for years; building up their nests, one layer of mud at a time to form their nests.
So how does this affect you?
The beauty of 3D printing is that it is a powerful and creative tool that can be used to design tailor-make objects, on demand. It’s ideal for low-volume manufacturing, and gives both designers and consumers greater creative control over the ability to create custom objects and complex shapes. These can then be ‘grown’ in one single process, in a very short space of time. Because of this, the possibilities and applications for this technology are seemingly endless, which is why we are seeing an explosion of scientific and imaginative solutions across so many industries.
There are a number of companies that are able to supply 3D printed parts and products. However, because 3D printers are increasingly small and mobile, it’s not too far-fetched to believe that they will soon become a feature in every home or office. Even more so, it could provide an affordable and accessible option in many of the more rural environments of South Africa, where design and innovation may provide solutions to common problems.
3D Printing is thus bringing the opportunity to create bespoke, customisable products and inventions to the masses.
Text by Kenneth van Rensburg, 2013
Kenneth van Rensburg is an Industrial Designer and owner of KVR Design & Prototyping. KVR specialise in providing a project management service for rapid prototyping, and have recently introduced a 3D printed product range.
To find out more, contact KVR: