In the last decade, many technologies were developed, some of which proved to be very useful. 3D printing is certainly one of the most innovating manufacture methods because it is able to shape our surroundings in a unique form.
There are many industries that already use 3D printing, but there are many more that just started this endeavor. Because this technology is more and more accessible, only creativity limits the many possibilities of objects to build.
Because of this, we decided to present the top 3 industries for which 3D printing is essential in the manufacturing process.
Over time, there were many new materials invented that were used in the aerospace industry, but the purpose of the material meant that it was very important to have some special characteristics like a particular structure and a particular way of molding the raw material to form a certain shape. If we refer to the commercial side of the aerospace industry, the first priority is reducing the weight of the craft. By doing this, they are able to load more passengers and fuel.
As opposed to the traditional manufacturing method by shaping an object through cutting it from a block, 3D printing manufactures objects by adding material, not by eliminating the excess. Because of this, we are able to make objects with a complex geometry and compact models of higher quality.
The object from the picture represents a small scale model of an airplane component. If it were to be built in the traditional way, the object would have to be full on the inside, thus the material used should be both durable and very light. Using a 3D printer, the same piece can be manufactured to be 3 times lighter and durable. We are able to do that because 3D printing is an addition process, the inside of the piece could be shaped in a way to add resistance to breakage, while maintaining a lighter weight.
Another example is by GE. They were able to print almost 40% of a chopper engine, thus managing to reduce the number of components from 400 to 16. There is another part that was manufactured through 3D printing by reducing the number of components from 855 to just 12 pieces. In this case, the total weight of the product was reduced by 3 kg and the cost by 80% ( Here is the article ).
Therefore, next time you use an airplane to travel, remember it could have parts that are built using 3D printers.
Research and development
Before being manufactured and sold, all systems/ technologies / objects / products were in a stage of technological progress. This stage is related to all innovating activities done in order to develop new services and products or improve existing ones. In order to understand this process, we will elaborate on the improvements that 3D printing brings to this area.
First and foremost, due to this technology, designing and testing products became easier and faster. The time needed to build this products is shorter as opposed with building them using traditional methods. Furthermore, the process of building the product can be repeated for as many times that we need with a minimum of time, effort and cost.
If we were to trace the steps needed to transform an idea to a final product, they would look like this:
Having the idea
Design a 3D model on the computer
Print an initial 3D prototype and test it to find any potential design problems
Improve the prototype and reprint the CAD model to obtain a good product
To see the final product, click HERE.
On a larger scale, this stages can be more numerous and more complicated, having a different order than the one presented. In some cases, some concepts from different stages can overlap. Overall, the steps presented above provides an overview of how 3D printing brings a great idea to reality.
The process of addition layer by layer to form a 3D model would not have had such success if material research had been less developed. Thus, recent progress in types of filaments with which you can print led to diversity, less time spent in printing and lower costs, facts that helped find new methods to design and produce automobiles.
There are 3 characteristics that 3D printed pieces need to have in order to be advantageous for the automotive industry.
As in the case of aerospace industry, one of the most important aspect is weight. 3D printing can have an advantage in this area as it can manufacture pieces with complex geometry using advanced materials in order to lower the weight of the piece while increasing its performance.
The parts that are in the engine compartment are often exposed to high temperatures. There are heat resistant materials used in 3d printing, like Nylon and ULTEM.
Moisture resistance is an important factor if we intend to protect the expensive electronics that control the car. Fortunately, 3D printed pieces were manufactured with this in mind.
Some examples of pieces used in the automotive industry that are manufactured through 3D printing:
Making fastening brackets
Prototyping for dimension and shape verification