3 Industries Leading the way with 3D Printing Technologies
3D Printing became mainstream media a few years ago and instantly turned into an intriguing craze. People utterly mesmerised at the scope of what the technology could do and equally baffled at how it actually worked.
3D Printing Technologies
The creations were stunning, the creativity seemed endless, although the consumer market hasn’t quite lived up to the hype of those first 18 months, businesses are certainly looking at ways to integrate it into their future and using it to change their industries drastically. Here we take a look at where the industry is headed and why it’s estimated that it will be worth $32.78 billion by the year 2023.
3D Printing Innovation
The key to 3D printing is its differentiation from traditional laborious and costly manufacturing practices. When Chuck Hull invented the first 3D printer in 1984, creators and designers ideas went from the sketch pad to reality and in the process saved companies millions of dollars in testing prototypes through the exact same process.
Recently at GE’s ‘Industry in 3D” event businesses got together to show how the industry also is known as ‘additive manufacturing’ is changing the landscape and forcing the re-training of engineers in the production field to move away from the thought processes behind traditional manufacturing.
3D printing is not a twist or alteration to an existing manufacturing process; it is re-writing the script, the entire process and creating a higher standard of quality throughout.
At the event, the media got to see just how widespread the technology has become. They got a taste of its capabilities through presentations from companies such as GE, Boeing, Adidas, GM, BMW, Bombardier and Launcher, showcasing where 3D printing is playing a significant role in design parts for cars, aeroplanes, spaceships, dentures and human joint replacements, to name just a few.
It is essential to understand that the industry is not looking (like some others) merely to replace workers with robots, in fact just the opposite, the industry is on the hire for scientists, engineers, innovators and marketing experts to overhaul existing manufacturing process for today’s societal demands.
Over $14 billion has now been spent on 3D printing as a whole since 2013, but GE estimates that nearly $300 will be spent over the coming decade. The trend we see at the moment is many of whom we consider to be market leaders tentatively getting their feet wet in the industry.
It’s reminiscent of the current situation in the commercial printing industry, they know they have to digitize, but they are still making a profit from a traditional printing platform that has barely changed in 100 years. It’s difficult to move away from something that’s profitable even when you know you need to. So companies are worried about disrupting their current manufacturing processes to go heavily into 3D printing.
However, the reality is that every business and industry should be investing heavily in R&D on how to augment their manufacturing model to be prepared for the inevitable.
3D Printing in the Aviation and Aerospace Sector
The aviation industry has not shied away from throwing themselves into R&D within the industry and is now taking advantage of it. Using a wide range of customisable parts that were simply not feasible before. They have been heavily involved as far back as 2015 where they found that 3D printing could reduce the weight of the aircraft by up to 7%.
Helicopter engine parts showed they could be reduced from 400 parts to just 16 3D printed parts using the technology. Reducing the overall composition of the entire helicopter by 40%.
A further part of the engine had seen 855 parts turn into only 12 and reduce weight by over 5 pounds, and just as crucial to the company itself a cost reduction in the region of 80%.
Given the ability to produce specific parts for the same model aircraft without the need for the physical design is changing the manufacturing landscape for good and opening company’s eyes up to what this is capable of.
One of the processes on show at the event was a propeller of a plane that linked to technology can be monitored for any changes during the course of its lifetime. Digitally notifying the company if the propeller has altered in any way as an automatic alert for maintenance.
In the past, this would require continuous, costly, time-consuming maintenance and quality control checks. So the technology is now shifting us toward preventative maintenance, therefore, enhancing safety and saving companies enormous expense, creating better profitability.
3D printing technologies lends itself to levelling the playing field somewhat between small to medium-sized companies being able to compete with industry heavyweights and governments that would have been impossible only five years previous.
3D Printing in Healthcare
Whereby some of the technology at the event were gimmicky and gadget-like, almost of a showcase of what new toys we have made, things got very serious and eye-opening when it came to healthcare and just how much this technology could affect human lives at their very core for the better.
Numerous patients as this is published have 3D parts in use, from shoulder and knee joint replacement to various forms of functioning prosthetics. However, the field is now moving ahead into other areas and at a rapid pace.
We are talking 3D printed parts having the ability to grow with the bone to create sturdier joints using the patient’s DNA coated on them ensuring a zero per cent chance of the body rejecting them which now leads to replacing physical organs as well such as kidneys.
The dental industry had wasted no time going fully into 3D printing in a substantial way. Using it for techniques that cannot be mass produced as they are case specific.
Stryker showcased at the event how they are collaborating with hospitals to work together on joint replacement techniques and innovation, the latest being a tool designed to suture wounds faster for doctors to up survival rates of emergency room patients.
The Relationship between 3D Printing and Energy
GE is known worldwide as an energy company and is focusing their energy in 3D printing at many levels and currently in varying phases of the production process. They can mass produce drill bits from small to industrial size that are now 4 to 5 times stronger than they were when made from standard metal composite.
From medical to oil and gas and renewable energy, companies are now using 3D printing technologies to cut down on the costs of materials, laborious processes and production times, while upping quality and sustainability, with part replacements being almost instantaneous.
With new emerging niche markets within the field of metals in 3D printing and wind turbines to mining equipment, the landscape of manufacturing is changing and will never be the same again. If industries do not take this seriously within the next 3-5 years, their names will fade away as quickly as their old processes.
[3D Printing Technologies]
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- 3 Industries Leading the way with 3D Printing Technologies - September 12, 2018