3D printing is a manufacturing process that is used to produce three-dimensional objects from a digital design. It is also commonly called additive manufacturing. Complex shapes are produced in successive layers from particles of metal, resin or plastic. This makes it cheaper and easier to produce a single product than most traditional production methods, which rely on cutting and removal of excess materials.
Typically, 3D printing is done using an industrial robot that performs the additive manufacturing process with the control of computer software. The robot and computer used for this is usually referred to as a 3D printer. 3D printers are now available commercially and several manufacturing firms are using them to create prototypes in many fields including, biotech, medical implant industries, engineering, automotive, aerospace, fashion, and food. In this article, we will be discussing the new opportunities offered by 3D printing and how they will transform industry.
Shorter Lead Times
3-D printing has the potential to drastically reduce the time it takes to acquire component parts and create finished products. As this mode of manufacturing becomes a widely accepted way to produce consumer-ready goods, most suppliers will have to adopt it to remain relevant. Many parts suppliers will begin to depend on 3D printers to achieve the new standards of speed and performance in industry.
Since 3-D printers allow for quick design changes and customization, they will be used to create a mass manufacturing system in which each batch has a size of one. For instance, businesses and end users will be able to order for fully customized parts and finished products like tires or bearings that bear their brand or name.
One of the most important advantages of 3D printing is faster creation of design prototypes. In fact, this type of manufacturing process will make it possible to create several distinct prototypes and display them on a shelf for customers to examine and make a choice. They will also be able to request for modifications and receive their amended or customized products within a very short time.
Creation of High Performance Products
According to Mark Little, the Director of Global Research at General Electric, 3D printing is creating a major shift in the manufacturing industry. He said that additive manufacturing technology is now being used extensively to make high performance products in the aerospace and medical industries. This shift is being made possible by the collaborative efforts of software developers, non-destructive testing experts, engineers, metallurgists and 3D printing machine developers.
Currently, Boeing, the giant airline manufacturer, uses this advanced process to produce plastic air conditioning ducts for their 787 Airplane. In the near future, most manufacturers of parts for airplanes and high-end medical facilities will adopt this process.
Mark also stated that in the next four years, GEâs new aircraft engine will have several parts made using 3-D printing. And in a few decades from now the entire engine will be produced through advanced additive manufacturing.
The potential of additive manufacturing is massive. It has potential to create new businesses and jobs and drastically improve the quality of products, while shortening the production time.