A lot of really cool inventions have come along as the years go by. One of the latest and potentially greatest is 3D printing. As its name suggests, 3D printing is the process of creating a three-dimensional item from a digital blueprint. According to 3D Printing, the process used to create the object involves an additive process where the printer creates layers upon successive layers of material until the object is complete. Think of a loaf of sliced bread, except each piece is much thinner and is placed on top of the previous layer as the printer works. The layers have different areas to correspond to the shape of the full item.
The blueprints used to manufacture these items are created in 3D modeling programs like CAD engineering software. Just about anything can be designed and printed as long as someone can design a proper blueprint and the item, or pieces of items, can be fashioned out of the 3D printing material. Already a huge range of items have been created. Hong Kiat provides a diverse list that includes functioning firearms, acoustic guitars, figurines from children’s drawings (and adult drawings), medical models, smartphone cases, clocks, cups, high-heels, and even fabric. The limits of the technology are virtually endless and as the technology continues to develop, 3D printing will undoubtedly become more and more ubiquitous in many different fields.
Yes, you read that correct. 3D barcodes are actually a thing. However, the current types of 3D barcodes are created using methods not related to regular 3D printing. And in truth, it’s highly unlikely you’ll see an actual 3D barcode unless you work in some form of manufacturing facility. Barcodes Inc. states that 3D barcodes are actually embossed on the product instead of being printed on a label or sticker. And unlike regular 1D and 2D barcodes, the 3D variant is read and decoded based on the height of the lines in the code. Regular scanners like the ones offered by eCommerce vendor Shopify are unable to read the codes as they are designed to decipher barcodes based on light differences between the white and black areas on the code. At the same time, regular barcode printers can do nothing to create 3D barcodes as they work the same way as regular printers. A more specialized scanner is required to read the codes while a specialized embossing or etching device is needed to create the codes.
While 3D barcodes haven’t found a use outside of industrial manufacturing processes, it can be assumed that it’s only a matter of time before new methods of creating, reading, and using them are created. A 3D printer in the future might be able to print out 3D barcodes onto stickers or labels to be used in regular retail locations. Those printers might also be used to create slightly different types of barcodes and inventory management tools that further decrease the margin for error already found in barcode technology. In the same way that 2D codes improved the storage capacity over 1D codes, 3D codes further improve the storage capacity. Once a method for creating the codes via regular 3D printers is found, the reach and effectiveness of 3D barcodes could extend far beyond mere manufactories.
3D Printing and the Way of the Future
While 3D barcodes embossed on products in a factory are a rather niche technology, 3D printing may be on its way to revolutionizing manufacturing as a whole. CSC discusses how 3D printing is set to shake the world of manufacturing by blurring the lines between construction and distribution of goods. Since the dawn of large-scale manufacturing processes in the Industrial Revolution, the image of factories and industry have been assembly lines, hundreds of workers working with tools and parts to craft whatever products are being created. But with 3D printing, that whole process might just be a thing of the past. Instead of requiring multiple tools, parts, and pieces to make an object, the creation process is all wrapped up in one event, the printer slowing placing layer upon layer of the printing material atop one another until the whole object is complete.
How Can this Help You?
3D printing hasn’t taken over industry and manufacturing yet, but it’s just a matter of time before new methods of printing start to become far more effective than traditional manufacturing. For you and your business, however, this can be good news. No matter what field your business is in (a CSC report discussed how 3D printing is already being used in defense, aerospace, automotive, retail, consumer, healthcare, commercial, and general manufacturing fields among others), you could get a hold of some 3D printers and begin producing your own products without the need for any partners, middlemen, or other external parties taking part. You could theoretically have the ability to create anything and everything your business needs in-house, without any outside assistance.