OPINION ARTICLE #1

EN | PT

Hugo Plácido da Silva

February 23th 2018


HUGO SILVA 
PhD in Electrical and Computers Engineering at the University of Lisbon.
Researcher at the IT – Instituto de Telecomunicações.
Professor at EST/IPS– Escola Superior de Tecnologia do Instituto Politécnico de Setúbal.
co-founder of PLUX – Wireless Biosignals, where he is currently a Board Member and Innovation Advisor.
Recent Project: BITalino  – uan open source software and low-cost hardware toolkit.
Main Interest Areas: Physiological Computing (aka biosignals), System Engineering, Signal Processing, and Pattern Recognition
Emailhsilva@lx.it.pt


What do you think of 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing and its potential?

It’s absolutely revolutionary… the capacity you have today to set up a small prototyping factory modifies the product development process completely.
In the past, the development cycles were conditioned by factors like costs and the time it took to produce a small quantity, everytime a package for electronics or moulded parts are required.
Today, you only need to think of a project and in a few hours you can see it physically materialized inside your living room. 3D Printing nowadays has the potential to transform almost every stage of the product development cycles which require a physical part, from the geometry analysis of the object, the creation of programming tools and automatized tests of the developed systems to the production for the final costumer, in the stages of kick off and validation markets potential for a product.

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http://www.instructables.com/id/Wolverino

Besides this, 3D Printing can also be fun! 😉

What could be done to minimize the barriors 3D Printing faces in its democratization process?

The main barriors have already been eliminated a few years ago, I think, namely costs, considering you can now find 3D printers starting at €150/€200 and training, considering the online galleries with 3D models already made, workshops, tutorials and other resources that make it possible for anyone to 3D print a physical object almost as easily as they print a Word document. One important limitation, in my opinion, is still the 3D modelling part, which comes with a learning curve and seems to be discouraging some people. Anyway, it also seems to me that 3D printing might already be considered democratized, considering the characteristics of this type of technology. Today you see 3D printers in schools, in FabLabs, being used by hobbyist and independent professionals, small businesses research labs, development centers in stablished industries (and even in production lines). I think this is the area where 3D Printing is a true asset, being in every home seems a bit more difficult since the common user’s perception is that the value it brings doesn’t justify the investment or the logistics required. Besides, in the past, many other technologies have had a similar path.

What are the main trends and prospects you see for the future development of this technology?

There has been a movement to increase versatility in equipments, both through the developments made in materials (ex: rubber, wood, metal and glass composits, amongst others) and through the possibility of using multiple tools with the same machine. This last one seems to have great potential, since with the same equipment, 3D Printing, laser cutting, CNC milling and other precision are all possible and extremely useful in a prototyping and product development context.
The possibility of mixing colors in the 3d printing head (extruder) is also an interesting advance. However, the most significant development might be the reduction of printing time, maintaining good resolution (SLA in particular) and the integration of Artificial Intelligence as a way to create models. There are many developments in this area which make it possible for a regular user to create his/her own 3D model from a photo or 2D image they choose, without requiring 3D modelling softwares.

Is the Maker movement important to increase the adoption of this technology? Why?

The Maker movement is essential to the adoption of this technology as it constantly demonstrates not only what it is possible to do with 3D Printing but also the many ways to go beyond the preconceived ideas and pre-established notions in the field.
Besides this, there is also the effect of the community/network, which makes it possible for people to find answers to their questions, evolve in their projects and also learn together.


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