If there’s been a technical topic universally hotter than 3D printing, which has application to packaging as well as numerous other markets and fields, I’d like to know what that is.
A good barometer of the technology’s popularity could be seen this week at the Fort Worth, TX, Convention Center, which hosted the TexasPack event as well as the six other UBMCanon.com shows co-located under a unified design & manufacturing banner.
Knowing little about the topic and wanting to learn more, I was drawn to an afternoon session on May 7 entitled “3D printing Capabilities: Innovative Tools & New Materials for Design & Manufacturing” featuring –appropriately enough—a trio of speakers and presentations.
Here are some of the things I learned and assorted points of interest.
From Darin Everett of Stratasys.com I learned that:
- The technology has been around far longer than I realized—vendor Stratasys has been shipping 3D printers since 1991;
- All 3D printers create objects layer by layer as directed by 3D CAD drawings in Standard Triangulation Language (.stl) format;
- Commercial 3D printers are those costing $10,000 and up; consumer printers are those costing $2,500 and less;
- Stratasys’s Objet500 Connex3 introduced in January was the world’s first and only multicolor (three materials) 3D printer for more realistic prototypes.
From Michael Moussa of PartSnap.com I learned that:
- UV curable resins make for better 3D printed containers;
- 3D printing not only relies on CAD, it relies on the user’s CAD expertise;
- Next up is nanoscale 3D printing that will yield objects with a high strength to weight ratio.
From Mike Rainone of PCDWorks.com I learned that:
- 3D printers are creating human bladders and veins;
- NASA has awarded a contract for printing food.
Lastly: The show guide indicated five vendors offered 3D printing, but it seemed to me in walking the aisles there were more. In fact, in one packaging supplier’s booth, I was surprised to learn that a number of the samples on display were created using the company’s 3D printer. Appropriately enough, they were made of polylactic acid, or PLA, a common polymer used in packaging targeted toward sustainable packaging solutions. I will aim to present further details on that vendor’s experience in a future article.