3D printing is one of the most exciting fields of modern technology, offering a potential to change the world far beyond any comparable technology in the last decades. A 3D printer isn’t exactly a simple device, but they are relatively easy for the average person to understand and there is definitely a genius to the simplicity of the concept. We are all familiar with how regular printing works, and we don’t need an advanced understanding of 3D printing technology to appreciate the potential that the tech offers for the future.
We have already seen some very exciting applications of 3D printing technology. The printers now available to consumers, albeit with a relatively high price tag, are very capable when it comes to creating fairly simple objects. To see one of these printers in action, you may well conclude that, while 3D printing is undeniably cool, it is still a long way from being able to change the world in the way that many are predicting it one day will. So, you might be surprised to learn that 3D printers are already being used to produce artificial organs.
Of course, the kind of printer and other tech that you need in order to produce your own organs is still restricted to scientists and researchers. They are different machines to the ones that most consumers can buy, although they operate on the same principles. As things currently stand, there is some variation even among consumer-grade 3D printers, with different manufacturers using slightly different technologies and designs to achieve results.
3D printer manufacturers are in fierce competition with one another to find the breakthroughs that will enable their products to overcome some of the common challenges with 3D printing. Now, a 50-year-old, Californian entrepreneur is threatening to throw a spanner into the works of this technological arms race.
Meet Joe DeSimone
Dr. Joe DeSimone is the founder of the tech startup Carbon, a fitting name for a business that is radically changing the way that we think about how we make things. The manufacturing industry in the United States is currently worth about $300 billion every year. Of that number, 3D printing is still only a small fraction of the total.
Before we get onto Joe’s contribution to this fledgling industry, it is worth briefly noting how he got to where he is. Like many entrepreneurs, Joe transitioned from the world of academia to the world of business. An online MBA program in Boston, like that from Suffolk University, is the perfect way of making the same transition. You will need prior managerial experience before you can enroll on an MBA, but if you plan on entering into a new and unpredictable field like 3D printing, this solid grounding in business concepts will help you.
There are a number of reasons that 3D printing has yet to reach a tipping point beyond which manufacturers will be falling over themselves, rushing to switch their equipment for advanced 3D printing tech. In short, the issue is that 3D printing is not yet versatile enough to be able to replace the manufacturing methods that are currently in use.
Joe’s contribution to this industry, one which may yet prove to be game changing, is something known as Digital Light Synthesis (DLS). DLS is a process that utilizes a photochemical substance that interacts with light in order to produce parts made from resin much faster than was previously possible.
Carbon currently has 500 employees and has expanded beyond the United States. Despite being a relatively new and small business, especially when compared to the larger players in the industry, Carbon has been able to raise $680 million from their latest round of funding. This investment values the business at a whopping $2.5 billion.
But, it isn’t just the amount of money that has investors excited, as Joe has put together a veritable dream team to serve as the company’s board. Among their number is Alan Mulally, a former Boeing CEO from the Aircraft Division; Ellen Kullman, formerly chairwoman and CEO of DuPont; and Jim Goetz, known for his work with Sequoia.
Among the individuals and businesses who have invested money in Carbon, standout names include Adidas, Google, BMW, and Johnson & Johnson. The range of businesses that are investing in Carbon is a testament both to the strength of the business, the importance of the technology they are developing, and the potential that 3D printing has to touch on a number of different areas of our lives. As 3D printing technology evolves, we can expect to see more businesses from more different industries looking to get in on the action.
Digital Light Synthesis aims to address one of the biggest problems that 3D printers have been contending with as the technology comes to fruition. Because 3D printers work via an additive process, there are certain trade-offs that, until now, manufacturers have had to just accept. In particular, as more layers are added to a 3D printed object, more imperfections are introduced. These imperfections mean that, if a 3D printer is used to print out several of the exact same object, there will be some variability in their strength and quality.
DLS massively reduces the rate and severity of these imperfections by utilizing a material that reacts with light. This means that, by adding a little heat and light, the outer layer of the printed item can be normalized and strengthened.
In addition, DLS makes it possible for 3D printers to print much more quickly than they otherwise could. Ordinarily, printing the object faster wouldn’t be feasible because it would leave too many structural imperfections and other weaknesses. However, with DLS, the outer layers of the object can heal as it is printed with each layer being ‘cured’ by oxygen and light as it is laid down.
DLS has the potential to completely rewrite the way that we think about 3D printing. There are new developments being made all the time with regards to 3D printers, and the industry is just waiting for the right person and the right idea to unleash 3D printing’s full potential.