Just a few years ago, most people believed 3D printing was suited best for prototyping, tooling, and oddball parts. In the coming decade we may see additive manufacturing prove its mettle in mass production.
The coming decade will likely change the economics of 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM). Ric Fulop, CEO and co-founder of Desktop Metal offers a number of predictions for the future of 3D printing and additive manufacturing in the 2020s. For one, he believes 3D printing is sufficiently mature for production. Over the next 10 years, mass production using AM may become a reality and not just a promise. The general belief has been that AM was too expensive to compete with traditional manufacturing methods. Fulop believes those days are over.
What’s changed? Fulop points to the cost of 3D printing technology coming down in price, 3D materials becoming less expensive and more varied, and improvements in 3D printing equipment. We caught up with Fulop and asked him about his predictions for 3D printing and additive manufacturing over the coming decade.
3D printing has been a buzzword for many years, with exciting developments cropping up in many sectors, including medicine, where the first 3D printed heart recently made headlines, construction and automotive.
But what about the packaging industry? Elisabeth Skoda examines three very different 3D print applications in the industry – ranging from reverse engineering more durable parts for packaging machines, creating more sustainable coffee cups and enabling creative uses for packaging waste.
Reverse engineering against wear and tear
A sweets producer in the Netherlands uses additive manufacturing to replace fast-wearing machine parts more efficiently. The Chocolate Factory in Rotterdam faced the problem that high-speed applications in the chocolate packaging process resulted in high wear on individual parts and was looking for solutions to make part replacement easier and faster. How could 3D printing reduce machine damage, downtime and material costs?
A study about additive manufacturing released in mid-March by Essentium Inc. and Dimensional Research concludes that confidence in and deployment of industrial-scale 3D printing (3DP) is at a tipping point among users.
The study, “3D Printing at Scale,” reveals that 22 percent now use 3D printing for full-scale production runs of parts and 36 percent expect to in the future. Sixty-one percent use 3DP for prototyping work; 58 percent expect to do so in the future.
Besides reducing manufacturing costs, the transformational impact on manufacturing from industrial-scale 3DP is expected to be far-reaching, according to the survey findings. Forty-three percent of respondents believe it will make the mass-customization of products possible, 39 percent expect to gain a competitive advantage from a dramatic acceleration in the cycle of design to proof of concept to mass production, and 38 percent expect to bring the manufacturing supply chain closer to the customer as outsourcing production of parts to other geographies for economic purposes becomes redundant.
Efficient serial production – true additive manufacturing – is the real game changer. Four case studies demonstrate how scaling up to serial 3D printing production represents a huge opportunity for manufacturers.
Yorkshire-based Labman Automation creates custom laboratory automation and robotics equipment; this fast-growing small business has been working with Materialise for three years to produce bespoke parts for its machines.
“Our job is to be creative and the design freedom of 3D printing gives us free rein to come up with interesting and novel solutions for our customers,” says Rob Hodgson, Inventor at Labman Automation.
A lot of words are commonly thrown around when talking about 3D printers and their capabilities. Two of those words are accuracy and resolution, which are often treated as interchangeable – but they’re really not. There’s a difference, and it’s important to understand what that difference is if you’re going to find the right 3D printer for your specific application – especially regarding applications like dental 3D printing, where precision is of the utmost importance.
EnvisionTEC recently published a white paper entitled “Understanding 3D Printer Accuracy: Cutting Through the Smoke and Mirrors,” which will be circulated at the ADA 2017 show in Atlanta later this month. You can also read the full paper here.
Advancing technology and lower costs have some Seattle-area companies looking to 3D printing for faster, cheaper product tweaks and for full-fledged manufacturing as well.
Oliver Brossman struggled for years to find soccer shoes that fit properly and let him run after painful knee injuries. After a futile search, he decided to create his own.
In hopes of making a better shoe, he turned to 3D printing to create custom-fit running shoes. He founded Prevolve, despite no coding knowledge or background in 3D printing.
Three years of prototyping and testing later, the company just launched its first product, BioRunners, a high-end personalized running shoe designed to be better for your body.