Sunday, November 22, 2015

Can Virtual Reality Take 3D Printing to the Next Level?

Two of the world's most rapidly developing technologies with the greatest potential to impact the way we live could be combined to form new, hugely powerful applications. We are, of course, talking about virtual reality and 3D printing. 

For those unfamiliar with 3D printing, it basically involves the processing of successive layers of materials (often types of plastics) to create a physical 3D object, which is designed by a 3D modeling application. So what if we used virtual reality to design 3D models instead of using standard 2D software such as 123D, 3DSlash, 3DTin, etc? Doesn't it make sense to use a completely-3dimensional environment to design 3D objects? 
So far these technologies are only in the beginning of their life cycles. Both are expected to make incredible technological advancements but are not yet fully utilized by the majority of people and businesses. There remains a lot to improve upon in terms of quality, standardization, ease of use and cost structuring. The Gartner Institute says that Enterprise 3D printing will become mainstream within 2 to 5 years and virtual reality in the next 5 to 10.

Jaguar Land Rover Virtual Cave: 
Within some applications, however, virtual reality is already helping engineers to prototype concepts and designs. Balfour Beatty Rail, for instance, a rail infrastructure contractor, has used VR to plan and prototype a host of projects. Similarly, Jaguar Land Rover has a center called the JLR Virtual Reality Cave in the UK designed for such a purpose.
We believe that it won't be long before we can use virtual reality to design 3D printing models. It is not by chance that the Virtual RealitySummit was combined with the Santa Clara 3D Printing Show, the main conference within this sector. It's clear that such an event represents a broader trend in the union of virtual reality and 3D modeling/printing. 
When do you think the combined applications of VR and 3D printing will become more mainstream? Share your thoughts in the comments below!