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Old 01-13-2019   #148
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Originally Posted by jawarden View Post
For now 3d printing is good at showing what a molded part could look and work like if you actually molded it properly. And 3d prints today can be the final product too, assuming you don't expect much out of it. I saw recently someone was 3d printing spacers that allow 35mm film to be used in medium format cameras, and that strikes me as a good fit for current 3d printing tech, which is to say parts that are designed to do little more than take up space. Printing spacers? Yes. Printing a camera? No, at least not today.

The challenge is making 3d printing robust and attractive, like injection molded parts that are processed at very high pressure, optimized temps, with specialty resins designed for the job. It's unlikely that 3d printing will approach that for quite some time, but there is a lot of effort and investment currently with that aim in mind.
There are 3D printed parts in production already in aerospace for instance (where the cost can be justified, and of course not primary or even secondary structures). A lot of dental lab work is getting done with 3D printing already. Things are moving along pretty quickly.

Again, I would not propose to print a whole camera. Components of a film advance assembly? Maybe. A camera frame? Maybe. You can buy the shutter and the lenses. I am also considering metallic additive manufacturing here. This is of course much more expensive than plastics at this time. The cost needs to come down a bit most likely.

Much of the tooling needed to build a camera could also be 3D printed as needed. This is another current area of use (printing tooling). I would not propose printing injection molds, because of course surface finish becomes a major issue.

In any case, producing cameras with the aid of 3D printing probably is already possible now with some ingenuity, but I suspect will be very possible in the near term. Other technologies will be needed besides 3D printing of course.