It’s safe to say that 2020 hasn’t been the best year ever for 3D printing – because 2020 hasn’t been the best year ever for anything. Taking our traditional look back at the year hasn’t been the easiest task I’ve ever set myself, to put it mildly. Right now, with two hours to go to midnight, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d rather just pretend this year had never happened. To be fair, though, it’s not been all bad for 3D printing, so let’s splash around in the covid-infested waters of nostalgia for a moment anyway.
Firstly, 2020 was a bit short on technology expos stuffed with exciting new printer technology. It turns out that lockdown isn’t great for innovation, because it’s hard to get a research team together when everyone’s socially distanced. A few new printers have made it onto the market, but it’s generally been a slow year as far as technical progress is concerned.
3D Printing to the rescue!
On the other hand, 3D printing has certainly made the headlines in a very positive way. We ran a couple of articles earlier in the year to highlight the way businesses and printer enthusiasts were using their equipment to fight the coronavirus pandemic. In the early stages the world suddenly discovered it didn’t have adequate supplies of simple things like face masks, but new designs were quickly developed and distributed to anyone with a 3D printer who wanted to make them. We also reported on how an Italian company was working with a hospital to make replacement valves for its hard-pressed ventilators. These were great examples of how additive manufacturing can create vital parts far quicker than conventional manufacturing processes.
The never-ending lockdowns and, for many people, enforced time off also seem to have boosted interest in 3D printing generally. We’ve certainly seen a rise in traffic here, and although I don’t have any statistics yet I’m willing to bet sales of printers and accessories have gone up quite a lot this year. A lot of us have whiled away 2020 with Netflix and alcohol, but there’s also been plenty demand for hobbies you can do at home with equipment you can buy online. 3D printing ticks both boxes there.
2020 also saw us launch a new project here at 3D Printing UK. The Ender 3 from Creality has established itself as one of the most popular and best value printers on the market, so we bought one. Over the next year we’re going to test it in painstaking detail, get to know it inside out, and upgrade it to see just how good it can get. In 2021 you can follow our Ender 3 as it goes from its first straight-out-the-box test prints to, hopefully, becoming a highly upgraded super-printer that’s still affordable and easy to use.
So, as difficult a year as 2020 was in many ways, it’s seen 3D printing really come of age, and also given a lot more people the time and opportunity to get involved with it. With a bit of luck that should give us a good launchpad for a productive and exciting 2021. Happy New Year!