6 Sectors Affected by 3D Printing in 2018
3D Printing promised a lot a decade ago and then the buzz and excitement slowly but surely faded away. However, behind the scenes steady progress has been being made in the world of what we also now know as ‘addictive technology’. So much so that predictions are they will be available in our homes in 2019.
Everything to do with the 3D printing industry is becoming faster and cheaper to produce including the printers themselves. As businesses big and small are realising what 3D printing can do for them, venture capital and funding into research and development has poured back in as it did before. (topic contd.: Sectors Affected by 3D Printing in 2018)
From businesses such as Promotional Products, all the way up to the Aviation and Medical Industries are transfixed with what these printed applications can do to take their businesses forward and simultaneously cut costs by unprecedented margins.
The scope is massive, from making gadgets for fun to saving people’s lives we are finally embarking on the new revolution we were promised a decade ago.
What Exactly is 3D Printing?
The question just about everybody who wasn’t in the know asked all that time ago, and some of whom are still asking today.
In essence, objects are created in a digital file and transmitted to a printer that’s nozzle lays down layers of what is usually heated thermoplastics until a solid object is complete. Every layer is a thin cross-section of the object.
The thermoplastic is heated until they liquefy then printed and harden into a solid form that does not weaken during the process. The process is considerably cheaper than traditional manufacturing methods, and in recent times new materials have been realised such as metals and even edible materials that can be made through 3D printing, and the industry has been very active in 2018.
Sectors Affected by 3D Printing in 2018
1. Prosthetics for the Medical Industry
This is the industry that broke the barriers in which other sectors have now poured in. 3D printing can now boast accomplishments in the medical industry from veterinarians who have used 3D masks to help animals recover from burns and severe facial injuries to models of body parts and working prosthetic limbs.
Software companies have been queuing up to take this to the next level providing cutting-edge technologies to make the scope over the coming years vast.
Northwestern University School of Medicine printed 3D ovaries implanted into a mouse which gave birth to healthy offspring, and the next phase is full human testing.
2. Homes and Building Infrastructures
3D printing is being touted as the solution to homelessness in third world countries. In Moscow, Russia, San Francisco based Apis Cor in under 24 hours completed a 400 square foot house with 3D technology, so the ease of which smaller more basic emergency accommodation could be created has become apparent.
With weather patterns around the world becoming increasingly hostile due to global warming this could be an ideal solution for poorer countries that are devastated, being able to create emergency shelters after a natural disaster in a matter of hours can be the difference between life and death. (topic contd.: Sectors Affected by 3D Printing in 2018)
On the other side of the spectrum, innovators will be able to see new possibilities in architectural design methods using 3D printing that was not available to them with traditional building materials and techniques.
In Beijing, China a full two-story house was created from concrete 3D printing, from ground level in only 45 days.
As we mentioned earlier about new materials now being tested such as metals and concrete there was an innovation in Germany that caught the eye where a house was made entirely from glass, even though it was only made in miniature size, it was still the first of its kind.
With 3D printing gaining the firm attention of the construction industry we will start to see more integration. When it comes to creating hard manufacturing, faster production times and lower costs are the Holy Grail, new software is developing at the same pace, and we expect to see innovations as we have just covered becoming almost the norm in 2019/20.
3. New and Edible 3D-Printing
If you consider how you create frosting on a cake and the apparatus that is used, it is very similar to how 3D printing visually looks and works. Just like the 3D printing application process, decorating the cake with frosting is in the form of a liquefied material being forced through a needlepoint forming layer upon layer of frosting.
So how edible 3D printing has come along is just replacing the thermoplastics with a consumable material.
For example chocolate is a perfect material for 3D printing, it naturally will harden at room temperature. So the 3D printer prints layer upon layer fed information from the digital design program and voila, Bon appetite!
However, chocolate is far from the only product now in use and being sold to the public from 3D print. We have seen ice cream, various dough’s to make cookies for example, and recently even hamburger buns. At this stage, it’s a more on the gimmick level, but with new software, expect the food to start to be made on industrial levels using the technology very soon. (topic contd.: Sectors Affected by 3D Printing in 2018)
It seems an age ago since Defense Distributed made the first firearm using a 3D printer and named it ‘The Liberator’ in 2013.
While there has been almost no development to talk about as far as commercially available metal 3D printing. The Liberator caused controversy at the time as gun control, and gun legislation came into question.
What if this gave anyone the ability to print weapons from home? This will no doubt come to the fore again and be a significant hurdle once machines are readily available for domestic use in the near future, coupled with software and metals that will be cheap and affordable, it’s only a matter of time before regulations must come under scrutiny.
Manufacturing is the boom area of the current 3D printing industry. As software develops and machinery and materials advance and become cheaper to use so are production times and efficiency, the two main factors manufacturer’s lives revolve around.
3D printing has moved past just producing prototypes into the full end product, and so plenty of resources are pouring into research and development.
There have been breakthroughs in the Aviation industry with Airbus announcing back in 2015 that they were using over 1000 3D components in their Airbus A350 XWB. In 2018 they announced that they are the first airline to be using 3D printing in their cabins. The components in question are 15% lighter than other aircraft panels currently in use. (topic contd.: Sectors Affected by 3D Printing in 2018)
Traditional manufacturing consists of making lots of parts that then need to be fitted together, this is a slow, laborious task, and of course more expensive. 3D printing makes the components whole, so this has caught the attention of big corporations who can see profit margins significantly increasing and production lines working at twice the speed.
6. Musical Instruments
The music industry was an unlikely source, but recently at Lund University, Sweden we saw the world’s first live 3D printed band in concert who played with a 3D printed drum kit, two guitars and a keyboard. From guitars, banjos and flutes, to a copy of a Stradivarius violin the possibilities are endless. The music industry has been inspired by 3D printing.
Soon 3D printing will be able to create anything that the human mind can conceive. In essence, all it requires is a digital file and the required material. Experts are closer today to enabling 3D printing to live up to the hype and hope it brought us a decade ago.
With the world at breaking point with pollution and the seas and oceans full of plastic waste, the evolution of 3D printing could just be coming at the right time not only for the manufacturers but all of us.
Sectors Affected by 3D Printing in 2018
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