DETROIT—I took a 2D design class in college. The focus was mostly on drawing and taking pencil, pen or paintbrush to paper to create a flat image or pattern.
Sometimes, through light and dark, highlight and shadow—chiaroscuro, my art professor would say—you could build up enough contrast to make that image or pattern pop off the page and achieve a three-dimensional form.
It's crazy what a drawing utensil, blank canvas and creative mind can accomplish, but can we also talk about how strange 3D printing is? It still sounds like science fiction to me: creating a physical, usable object from a digital model with a fancy machine.
This concept of creating something that didn't physically exist before is not so strange to manufacturers today, however. In fact, additive manufacturing, as it is often referred to, is becoming more common on factory floors. Today, the process is mostly used to complement other methods, like injection molding, for low-volume production.
Auto makers and their suppliers have become increasingly interested in the technology: for example, Ford's use of Carbon's Digital Light Synthesis technology, which is enabled by what the Redwood City, Calif., company calls its Continuous Liquid Interface Production process.
The Dearborn auto maker, which collaborated with Carbon on 3D printed end-use parts in three low-volume production vehicles, has basically created a roadmap for the effort it takes to validate new materials, determine the application space and realize the value of doing so.