device—and each unit is custom-tailored to the patient’s specific injury.
The project would be impossible for Mr. Gilchrist if he were limited to traditional manufacturing methods. But 3-D printing makes prototyping
cheap, giving designers more freedom to experiment and opening
new opportunities to create custom products for niche markets.
Frequent iterations trigger improvements and ideas for new
products. Mr. Gilchrist says the hundreds of prototypes he
created have led to significant product improvements his
team might not have discovered otherwise.
“There are so many times when you say, ‘Ah, that fea-
ture I really liked on iteration number 1,000, I want to
bring it back in the final product,’” he says. “Doing
that in traditional manufacturing would be very,
very expensive and very slow.”
For some projects, 3-D printing allows design
to start immediately. Mr. Gilchrist says design-
ing began in the very first conversation he had
with his collaborator. Because the project is
self-funded, his team never will have to worry
about investors wanting to influence production or
distribution plans further down the line.
“If it were five years ago, our first conversations
wouldn’t have been about the product features and
benefits. They would have been about raising US$10,000
to make the first prototypes and pulling favors with an
injection mold shop to get it done,” he says.
we hired had
days, but they
were done in
two hours. It
was quite nice.”
—Hedwig Heinsman, DUS
Architects, Amsterdam, the
The printed facade of a building in
Amsterdam, the Netherlands was
inspired by ship sails.