More businesses and individuals have turned to 3D printing in recent years, seeing that it provides a new way to visualize data. Schools, manufacturers, doctors and hobbyists are among some of those who have invested in traditional 3D printing technologies.
But while 3D visualization presents a wide array of opportunities to many industries, there are other display methods - like 3D holographic printing - that may prove more cost-effective and user-friendly.
The limitations of 3D printing
Although 3D printing is useful in certain applications, like in the production of industrial parts or components in additive manufacturing, it also has limitations. Some critics of 3D printing say that 3D printers are unreliable, lack accuracy and can take many iterations to create a useable final product.
"I fail to get excited by parts that look like they have been laser cut from sheet and stacked. Likewise, I fail to get excited about perfect parts that are so fragile that they cannot be handled for long without warping, marking or getting damaged," Kevin Quigley, who owns an industrial product design agency, said about 3D-printed objects in an interview with Engineering.com.
A recent article about 3D printing in The New York Times focused on how 3D printers are being used by hobbyists and small businesses. One of the primary complaints from individuals using 3D printers was that they often broke and needed maintenance. The 3D models created were also sometimes inaccurate and needed to be printing multiple times before they could be used.
"Anything I've printed I've printed at least eight times to get right," Jim Galvin, a lighting programmer for film and television, said in an interview with The New York Times, who added that the machine often broke or wouldn't work properly. "I became a 3-D printer mechanic, and that's not what I wanted to be."
Although companies and individuals have high hopes for the 3D printing industry - and there is certainly potential for it be used effectively in many applications - other companies may want to consider investing in an alternative 3D technology.
3D holograms provide an alternative for some
One alternative to printing physical 3D models is having a 3D hologram print created. A new partnership between Zebra Imaging and Autodesk allow users to seamlessly print 3D holographic displays from Autodesk's 123D Family of Apps.
"The main component of a Zebra Imaging hologram is 3D data," said Brian Hill, GM of Zebra Imaging's Print Division. "Our prints create a compelling 3D visual experience unlike anything you have seen. The development of the Autodesk 123D family of apps provides the tools for mass user generated 3D content and extends hologram creation capabilities across the globe."
In addition to their partnership with Autodesk, Zebra Imaging also creates unique holographic prints for customers that are true 3D holographic prints. Users of other 3D software modeling programs can easily prepare their data for holographic printing. It's also at lot more cost effective than physical 3D printing.
When illuminated by a light source, the holographic print can be viewed without glasses or other equipment. It is also easy to replicate, and is simple to ship or transport. It's possible to incorporate up to four images in one holographic print that are viewable from different directions. As the image is turned, the hologram could show project phasing, design alternatives, or a before and after view.
Many companies could use holograms during product development, or in architecture, engineering, construction, military, advertising, hobby or business projects.
"The possibilities are endless," said Hill.