Today, businesses of all sizes must respond quickly to market demands and new opportunities. In manufacturing, companies look beyond traditional production methods like mass production to more agile ways to make goods. 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, enables manufacturers to create a wide range of products quickly and cost-effectively. With the help of 3D printed prototypes, businesses can test new product concepts before investing in mass production. These prototypes are no longer made from clay or plastic — they’re created using 3D scanners and printers. Read on to learn about what these technologies mean for manufacturing, including types of 3D printing, recent innovations, potential applications for your business and much more.
What is 3D Printing?
“3D printing” encompasses many processes using digital models to produce physical objects. The most common form of 3D printing uses an inkjet printer to deposit layers of material onto a build platform, which then hardens into a solid object. Other forms of 3D printing include laser sintering, powder bed fusion, stereolithography (SLA) and selective laser melting (SLM).
Types of 3D Printing:
There are three main types of 3D printing technology:
Stereolithography (SLA): This process creates objects by building up thin layers of liquid resin one at a time. SLA printers work with photopolymers, which are materials that become hardened when exposed to light. Once the resin has been cured, it can be removed from the build plate and used again.
LaserSintering: This method fuses powdered metal particles using a focused laser beam. It works best for creating parts that have complex shapes and require high strength.
Selective Laser Melting (SLM): This process melts small amounts of metal powders into a pool of molten metal. Then, a computer directs a powerful laser beam to melt the metal powder into the desired shape selectively.
Recent innovations in 3D printing:
In addition to the standard 3D printing techniques mentioned above, several other emerging technologies may soon change how we manufacture things. Here are some examples:
Additive Metal Fabrication: Additive fabrication involves turning a digital model into a real-world object. For example, a company could take a CAD file of a car part and print out a prototype of that part.
Nano-scale Materials: Nano-scale materials are so tiny that they cannot be seen with the naked eye. They are often used in medical devices because their properties differ from those of larger-scale materials.
Bio-printing: Bio-printing involves growing cells in a lab dish to create living tissue. Scientists can then use this tissue to grow organs and entire human bodies.
How 3D Printing Could Change Businesses:
Companies worldwide are already leveraging 3D printing to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Some industries that benefit the most from 3D printing include aerospace, automotive, architecture, fashion, jewellery, medicine and dental care.
Here are just a few examples of how 3D printing will impact businesses over the next decade:
Manufacturing: Companies can design and test new products without investing in expensive prototyping tools. Instead, they can scan a virtual product version and print it out.
Medical Care: Doctors can now perform surgery on patients using 3D printed prosthetics. Or, they can print custom implants to replace damaged body parts.
Architecture: Architects can now make detailed plans for buildings before construction begins. And they can also print out prototypes of furniture or fixtures before ordering them from manufacturers.
Fashion: Designers can create clothing and accessories based on a customer’s specifications. They can also print out patterns and fabric samples to see if the colours match what they want.
The Future of 3D Printing:
As more companies adopt 3D printing technology, the industry is expected to grow exponentially. The global market for 3D printing was estimated to reach $6 billion in 2016. By 2020, it is projected to reach $20 billion.
This growth is mainly because 3D printing offers many advantages over traditional manufacturing methods.
3D printing in Dubai and other countries:
Dubai has been one of the leaders in adopting 3D printing technology. In 2014, Dubai launched its first 3D printer factory. It currently employs about 1,000 people who work at the facility.
In 2015, Dubai announced plans to build another 3D printing plant. This time, however, the city wants to focus on creating industrial robots.
3d printing in Dubai is not alone in its efforts to adopt 3D printing technology. Several countries have invested heavily in developing 3D printers. China, for instance, has built over 2,500 3D printers since 2012.
Other countries, such as South Korea and Japan, have also invested significantly in 3D printing.
3D printing is an exciting technology with great potential for improving our lives. As we continue to develop this technology, we will likely see it being adopted by more and more businesses across the globe.