THE CURRENT LIMITS ON 3-D PRINTING. I have posted several times on 3-D printing, partly because of wonder. When we first heard about 3-D printing, Mary Jane and I had the same reaction: “You’ve got to be kidding.” I explained how it works here. Tanya Powley had two articles in the Financial Times (December 27) about the limits, as well as the advantages, of 3-D printing. It is a slow process because it takes time to build up the layers, and there are no economies of scale. On the other hand, it is well suited for one of a kind items, such as prototypes, and has a cost advantage with valuable raw materials because there is less material wastage (the item is built up rather than being carved away). It looks like it will be years before it can be used in automotive manufacturing, with one estimate being 7 to 10 years. When complex, custom-tailored items are needed, 3-D printing can do things that can’t be done any other way, as with the custom splint that saved a baby’s life that I posted on here.

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