3D Printing has it Taken off at is Should?
The initial hype surrounding the 3D industry was massive, it became a global spectacle that had people as enthralled as they were confused and equally intrigued. Now also known as ‘addictive manufacturing’ it raises the question, is the glass half full or half empty?
As to some it still feels like an empty promised that was left unfulfilled.
As far as the industrial side of the industry is concerned 3D printing has proved very useful in producing varying prototypes but had been perceived to somewhat have failed to deliver end-use manufacturing.
At times trying to find the right balance between quality and production speed was a hindrance, in conjunction with the high cost of materials slowed progress and growth down.
Wall Street it could be said has had its part to play, with overall skepticism, dampening the expectations of the early days which itself leads to less venture capital and general funding.
However away with the negativity, as all is not what it seems, although 3D printing may not be the hype and the word-on-the-street anymore it has been moving along at a very steady rate, so much so that in 2017, Forbes released data showing 90% of companies using 3D Printing consider it a competitive advantage in their strategy and 72% predict their spending on additive manufacturing will increase in 2018.
Here we take a look at the areas where 3D printing is getting a foothold for the future.
With the strong paced development in technology, continued growth in manufacturing is assured. Sizeable corporations such as HP are investing heavily into 3D printing also with companies such as Innovator Carbon are looking to raise over $200 million to increase their outreach to more manufacturers.
So with the growing pains having slowly subsided 3D printing has emerged as a mainstay for prototyping to many companies to establish their proof of concept. It is a massive cost cutter and speeds up the product development considerably over traditional processes.
As 2018 progresses, we are seeing addictive manufacturing moving past prototyping to into end-use production and showing its true worth to industries, such as the Aviation and Medical industry where we are seeing significant advancements.
So here are my 5 trends to watch in 3D Printing:
1. Further Integration through New Software
As the industry grows, relative software needs to develop in tandem, and it is. Integration between the design and manufacturing processes is vital. In 2017 we saw Autodesk releasing Netfabb, basically, a portfolio combining both subtractive and addictive applications into one single solution.
This year we saw, SOLIDWORKS release a significant update with far more addictive technology manufacturing features with integrated end-to-end solutions with a focus on design-to-manufacturing.
So manufacturers are moving away from their old processes to begin the replacement of traditionally manufactured components and parts to 3D printed models that offer not just cost-cutting but an increase in speed of development. At this stage, wholesale replacement is not being used, but costs are being cut whereby the labor-intensive conduct of multi-part assembly is fast becoming a thing of the past due to 3D printing generating a completely solid piece in half the time. With new technology coming to the fore in 2019 the ability for adaption and progress is endless.
2. Organic, Wearable Materials
The ongoing discovery of new materials is what will keep this industry being talked about and relevant.
In 2018 we saw bacterial cells produced that was compatible with some hydrogels and printed what was described as living tattoos that responded to outside stimulation. With 3D printed bacteria being worked on we see the medical field moving way past where it is with 3D printing now of prosthetics into actual physics itself.
This year also saw a breakthrough with the development of printing an object while suspended in a structure. In effect, the organ is floating during the print process. This has the potential to transform transplants and also lead to solving issues to print complex objects using a softer material.
So in 2019 watch out for 3D printing taking hold in the medical industry and pushing the boundaries of organic materials.
3. Increased Productivity Due To Faster Speed
So far the focus has been on high quality and faster production (as it always is). Production speed has somewhat been a barrier to adopt this at multiple levels, but that barrier is disappearing fast.
In essence, an increase in printing speed usually has a detrimental effect on the quality and the end result. However, the University of Michigan created an algorithm that reduces vibrations (a significant reason for the reduction of quality of the finished product).
Allowing manufacturing speeds to double while producing the same standard of quality, and most importantly to the manufacturers, with no additional hardware costs involved.
In conjunction, MIT engineers developed a desktop printer that has an output times 10 of anything on the commercial market. Using Polymer, fed through the nozzle with a new form of mechanism, it flows faster, and so what would take hours now takes minutes.
3D systems also have made significant steps using polymer. Using digital light processing from a pool of resin using both light and oxygen, to speed up their processes considerably.
This has even moved into 3D Metals with Desktop Metal bringing out a machine that has blown away its previous models for speed and accuracy,
With all these rapid advancements, heading into 2019 we may well see addictive manufacturing living up to the hype of a decade ago.
4. Cheaper & Higher Quality Metal Printing
Metals along with the medical industry are the new frontiers for 3D printing, especially when we are talking end-use production. This now goes way past prototyping but produces objects that go into mainstream use. Up until now, they were costly to produce.
Things started to shift in 2017. Desktop Meta; a start-up claimed they could print metal 10 times cheaper and 100 times faster than any of their competition. Now they offer two systems:
Studio System – For Rapid Prototyping
Production System – For Rapid Manufacturing
Before in additive manufacturing, there were no metals that could be both strong and tensile, it was unheard of, as you had to trade one for the other, but this level of metal now being produced is opening doors not just in the medical industry but to the Aviation industry among others.
With these new developments, affordable 3D metal printing is everywhere, and we will hear much more about it in 2019.
5. Customization Going Into The Mainstream
This is the Holy Grail for 3D printing, marrying custom-made goods with mass production. Modern development is now making this a reality and garnering significant interest from major manufacturers and going mainstream.
Last year Scultpteo’s annual State of 3D printing study showed that offering customized products’ was a top priority for companies who took the survey.
We have seen evidence of this in 2018 with the likes of Adidas, New Balance and Nike already aligning themselves with both household names in the tech and athletics world to experiment with 3D printing to customize their footwear brands that will be designed to the person’s specific biomechanical data.
Airbus has recently announced that a 3D printing has reduced the weight of passenger seats by half and an overall weight advantage of up to 4% of the aeroplane. And Boeing made an announcement last year that 3D printing was saving them $3 million per plane!
Mini in the automotive industry announced it is going to offer customization detailing to consumers through 3D printing.
With options ranging from:
The Front Fender
Dash Board Options
The new generation especially millennials are hungry for customizable goods, and 3D printing is catching up fast so it’s the perfect time for it to fill those boots.
The future of 3D printing looks bright, the stagnant feel of the last decade has been replaced with the same excitement it had when it burst onto the scene, and more importantly, replaced with new injections of significant funding in both research and development from all corners of the manufacturing world. This time 3D printing is set to fulfill all those dreams we first had and print them into reality.
Article By :
Heidi Kovic is a tech blogger with a keen interest in business affairs, she likes to travel and is big into global cuisines, and she is associated with printer cartridges over at Printzone in Australia.