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Autodesk boss identifies current limits of 3D printing

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Carl Bass, the CEO of 3D design software company Autodesk , has claimed that 3D printing technology has reached both its hype and inflection point, and pointed out a number of ways in which additive manufacturing is limited.

Autodesk is heavily involved in the personalised 3D printing movement in ways including its 123D software suite and Instructables website.

Bass, writing in Wired magazine, contends that the technology won’t replace conventional manufacturing or bring manufacturing jobs back to developed nations, and is limited in terms of volume speed, quality and the materials that can be used.

It has commonly-observed advantages over regular manufacturing in terms of the geometric complexity of what can be fabricated, though is unable to replace cheap production models, wrote Bass.

In terms of what it can achieve, Bass believes there are exciting possibilities around bio-printing and architectural 3D printing, and the technology is starting to move from something useful for rapid prototyping – where it has been used for decades – to a viable way of making small-batch runs of a product.

“Instead of a mass-manufacturing marketplace where everything is made the same way, I expect the “production” trajectory for 3-D printing to start with low-volume, high-value objects like prosthetic devices or bespoke items like jewelry,” Bass wrote of the next shift.

“Most 3-D printing will be personal and custom, similar to the way we use our inkjet printers today.”

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