A developing technology called three-dimensional printing or additive manufacturing is picking up speed in industries as it transforms computer-aided designs into realistic 3D objects. This technology has been used by various industries including the medical, aerospace and automotive ones. One of the key factors behind 3D printing is its ability to bring production closer to the end user/ consumer, thus decreasing the current supply chain constraints.
The value of this additive manufacturing and the competency to produce small production batches is considered an effective method to engage consumers and negate stock piling. For this reason, 3D printing has progressed at a fast pace, allowing the market of additive manufacturing to grow further. However, it is recognized that the wider adoption of 3D printing will eventually cause re-invention of a number of already invented products, and even bigger number of completely new products. Besides, manufacturing applications of 3D printing have been subject to patent, industrial design, copyright, and trademark law for decades now. Still, there is no clear indication as to how 3D printing could survive amidst these issues.
Regardless of such issues, consumers and product designers alike are seeing how rapidly the various 3D print technologies have evolved so far, making it important to assume that many other industries will lay hold of it in the future.
Medical and Dental
Medical and dental applications for 3D printing are expanding rapidly and are expected to further revolutionize the health care industry. A report from 3D Printing Industry announced late last year that they will be able to 3D print a functional thyroid was realized. Although in the report, it is stated that it has only been deemed suitable for implantation on mice and not on humans, quite yet.
Thus, one of the greatest advantages of 3D printers to the medical field is its capacity to provide custom-made medical products and equipment.
The use of 3D printing in the medical and dental field can be summarized in the following:
• Customized prosthetics and implants
• Custom-made fixtures and surgical tools
• Bio-printing tissues and organs
• Anatomical models for surgical operations
• Custom printed dosage forms
Aerospace and Defense
The continuing demands of the aerospace and defense industry has been challenging manufacturers around the globe to create excellent and cost-efficient aerospace devices. 3D printing is making inroads into the manufacturing value chain, specifically within the A&D industry. DMLS (direct metal laser sintering) is the frequently used 3D printing technique for production of aerospace parts.
Aerospace tools produced via 3D printing include:
• Discs, hubs, spacers, and seals
• Exhaust parts
• High and low temperature fasteners
As a critical component of economic growth, national and regional employment of every industrialized country, the automotive market is obliged to find a better response to the challenges of the 21st century. By building more durable concept models, automotive engineers and designers can work more efficiently into the production stage. Thus, the automotive industry relies on 3D printing in the following areas:
• Increased time-efficiency.
• The use of cost-effective and lightweight tools.
• The ability to print replacement parts efficiently.
3D printing has been around for decades, and it’s not surprising that more and more consumers are adapting this technology. However, the most likely and ideal outcome is that additive manufacturing be maximized alongside traditional production technologies, to create more efficient components and tools for various industries.