3D printing started in the ‘80s; yes it’s older than you may think. In 1984 Chuck Hull invented a process called “Stereolithography” which used UV lasers to solidify photopolymer that created 3D parts layer by layer.
It was Fried Vancraen who in 1985 was making his own non-computer “FDM” models. Five years later he founded Materialise which was one of the first 3D printing companies out there.
3D printing was primarily used for prototyping but is now being used for production ready pieces. Many large corporates such as Ford have taken this process on and use it effectively for making car parts for testing saving millions of dollars every year. Since 2003 short run or one-off production pieces have been manufactured and such products include lamps, drones, table pieces and other top end designer products many of which have ended up in galleries or museums worldwide.
Materials such as gold, silver, titanium, wood and ceramics are being used in 3D printing processes, and even fashion clothing pieces have been manufactured by 3D printing out of materials such as nylon.
3D printing can lower production costs as traditional manufacturing processes require a lot of upfront costs, especially from nervous investors. 3D printing allows a more fluid approach as you can print orders on demand. If you’re a small business getting off the ground, this can be very handy. The low financial risk then translates into low cost production.
Other 3D printing uses include making props for the entertainment industry, medical solution such for the disabled, programs in space, educational programs for those wanting to introduce the biomedical applications of this technology into their curriculum.
Murray’s Commitment to Innovation Includes 3D Printing but…
The Innovations Team at Murray are quick to pick up on new processes and innovations that can be translated effectively into the corporate uniform market; but are also very pragmatic and focus on technologies that are wearable, cost effective, and what will bring value to their clients.
Although 3D printing has been around since the 1980s, it’s fair to say that the process is still very slow, and finished garments anything but comfortable to wear. Yes we’ve seen some very dazzling designer pieces which are very futuristic and form the centre-point of any catwalk, but for mass production, or even short production, there is currently no way to produce clothing that’s fit for every-day wear.
Where we do see 3D printing being very useful is for prototyping, or even manufacturing, short runs of bespoke buttons or accessories which can be very expensive to produce with traditional manufacturing methods. It would also reduce the development lead time.
Despite this Murray are watching the 3D printing technology very closely and investing time and money into research as we do anticipate that one day the technology will develop to the point that it may be a commercially viable option in certain situations.