It seems that buzz about 3D printing is everywhere.  In the last month, I have seen articles touting the process to make bionic ears, prosthetic hands, plastic guns, discontinued parts for classic cars, jewelry and even wedding cakes.

Apparently we are on the brink of a 3D revolution.  While Santa didn’t deliver too many of the $1,000+ printers this year, but by next year it is forecast that the sleigh will be overflowing with them.  

I had a hard time getting my arms around this process.  “Printing” sounds so two-dimensional, and an image of paper pops into my head, when in reality multiple materials can be used to create the object in 3D.  (I think of the wax animals that were formed by a monstrous machine at the zoo when I was a kid.)  Now the material may be plastics, wax, rubber, or even sugar to make confectionery treats.

There are some obvious uses for this technology — architects making 3D models of buildings and floor plans; engineers making prototypes and parts, or artists using it to bring dimension to their creations.  

But how can you go beyond this and deploy 3D printing for your organization?  Creating personalized giveaway products on site for visitors or trade show participants?  Crafting a fresh toy to be printed out for each sick child that comes into a doctor’s waiting room (so the germs are not spread)?  Making a new cup or plate for patrons at a restaurant?  Utilizing 3D to bring chemistry to life in a classroom?  

Ready or not, accessible 3D is coming.  Think now of how you can effectively capitalize on the extra dimension of benefits.

— beth triplett


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