The late 19th century heralded the machine age. Aided by machines, manufacturers were able achieve engineering feats such as the mass production of automobiles, skyscrapers, and high speed printing presses. These technological accomplishments would have been impossible without subtractive manufacturing — the use of drilling, boring, and milling to create components of a final product.
Subtractive manufacturing, although useful, still has its weaknesses. The technique’s name alone sheds light on it. Subtractive — to strip away. One feeds in raw materials, and one receives a final product that has been rid of extraneous bits. All the unused material is wasted. Even with 20th century development to make machining more and more efficient through computer modeling, subtractive manufacturing is fundamentally wasteful.
Additive manufacturing, however, is much more efficient, because the technique focuses on the placement of infinitesimally small pieces of material where needed. This is 3D printing.
3D printing has been around since the 70’s, and its efficiency increases as time passes. Just recently, the first car was made using 3D prototyping. More and more uses will be found for 3D printing because it is exact and efficient. Subtractive manufacturing machines will be a thing for specialists, much like the movable type press. We’re now able to download a 3D object using CAD software, and print it into being.
3D printing has grown accessible enough that toy company WobbleWorks has made a 3D printing pen. Printing is a whole new animal. No longer is printing just the creation of superimposed two-dimensional imaging and text onto a sheet of paper. Printing has transcended this purpose and is now tackling newer problems and creating more solutions; printing has tackled a whole new dimension.