3D printing is transforming how things are made. It is allowing doctors to create custom prosthetic limbs for patients on the spot. It is allowing fashion designers to create garment styles that are not possible with conventional sewing methods. If a toy company needs a mockup of a new product they are creating, they can rapidly 3D print a physical prototype to test the product before it is manufactured. Since mainstream 3D printing is a relatively new phenomenon, we spoke with Trey Richoux, the chief operating officer at a local 3D printing company to help explain what it is.
Trey’s company, Entrescan, is the authorized seller of 3D Systems products in Louisiana and one of the few companies utilizing this technology in New Orleans. 3D Systems pioneered 3D printing and the principle technology they use called Stereolithography (SLA). This process allows you to take a 3D scan or rendering of something, digitally slice it into layers, and print it by using lasers to cure resin layer by layer to build a product. With the 3D Systems models that Entrescan is selling they can create pretty much anything in a variety of materials including metal, plastic, and nylon. In house they have a ColorJet Printer with full color spectrum and a MultiJet Printer to make high-resolution plastic parts with ABS characteristics. The ABS type of plastic they use is common and prevalent in manufacturing settings. There are many applications for 3D printing; the medical field is one area where this technology is having a huge impact. For example, doctors can now convert a CAT scan of a body part into a 3D object that is an exact replica of the body part. This allows doctors to operate on the body part to practice for surgeries.
Entrescan has only been open for about a month so they are just getting their business started. Currently they are meeting with local companies to demonstrate their technology’s application to multiple industries including oil and gas, ship-building, general manufacturing, higher education, and architects. The castle we have pictured is a sample model done just for fun. However this model has also been used to show architects the capability of the 3D printing technology for making detailed architectural models. In addition to selling 3D Systems printers, the company eventually plans to have the capability to create models for New Orleans customers. The customer will be able to send a file electronically of what they want printed and then come in later to pick it up in 3D form. This kind of service will be beneficial for any kind of small business that needs an accurate model or prototype of anything. Although we are still in the beginning stages of 3D printing, it is clear that rapid prototyping with 3D printers will become a much more prevalent tool to help local companies innovate. The possibilities are endless.
The 2015 New Orleans Mini Maker Faire is a great opportunity to get some hands on exposure to 3D printing technology. There will be a wide range of makers showing off their printers, both consumer and professional grade, and the projects that they create on them. Join us on March 7th, 2015 at Tulane’s Lavin-Bernick center for 3D printing demonstrations and much, much more!