What new applications do you see 3D printing being adopted for over the next year or two?
By Greg Jack, Director of Business Development, Arevo
3D Printing has been widely used for over three decades; primarily for prototyping and low volume or specialized production. However, novel technologies have recently been developed by start-up companies that will enable the transition of 3D printing from a niche process technology to cost-effective additive manufacturing for large parts produced in high volume.
Examples include bike frames, baby strollers, outdoor gear, sporting goods, mobility devices, and furniture.
The value of such advanced technologies for OEMs is immense based on a variety of factors. First, high volume parts will soon be mass customized; meaning parts can be uniquely built on a large scale using software driven algorithms in a tool-less manufacturing process. Imagine producing several thousand bike frames on a single manufacturing cell, each one tailored and fabricated to a specific design or size as defined by the user and software; analogous to printing the different pages of a book off a single printer.
Second, the capability to build parts immediately that meet end-use performance criteria allows for faster commercialization of new products. The elimination of tools, which can take several weeks or months to build before a single part is produced, can cut product development cycles by 50 percent or more.
Third, additive manufacturing will optimize supply chain efficiencies between the consumer and manufacturer anywhere in the world. Imagine a user designing and submitting an order for a bike frame on an OEM’s webpage. The manufacturer will have this bike frame “printed,” assembled, and delivered within in a few days while minimizing inventory and delivery distance/time. Additionally, beginning-of-life (BOL) and end-of-life (EOL) product management will become a thing of the past.
Most importantly, the quality and performance of the parts will be exceptional—stronger than metals at 1/3 the weight, based on carbon fiber composite materials.
AM technologies that enable such disruptions will lead the way for the next wave of the industrial revolution.
By Raecine Meza, Business Development Manager, Texas Instruments DLP® Products
In the short-term, I see the use of 3D printing for finished goods continuing to print piece parts going into assembled products—pieces like product cases, fittings, and accessories, basically any part that might be otherwise injection molded is a candidate. The hardware speeds, printed feature sizes, and data connectivity options of 3D printers today can handle the throughput demands of many of these use cases. Material scientists have been introducing new resins that can be cured more quickly with more readily available light sources. These advancements are being achieved while also delivering compelling characteristics such as printed objects that are isotropic, tolerant to heat, or have very high tensile strength that can make the final print robust enough to meet the demands of a consumer product.
Materials beyond plastics are up for consideration. There have been some wonderful innovations in the past couple of years that are constantly expanding applications for 3D printing in sometimes unexpected ways. I expect we will see more innovations in hybrid printing techniques and composite materials. Industrial 3D printer companies are already combining UV stereolithography techniques with sintering ovens to print with ceramic and metal powders suspended in polymer resins, for example. It also opens up the possibilities of more product options for the end user—whether it is for customized shoes, watches, jewelry, smartphone accessories, headsets, or some newly created product category.