How 3D Printing Could Revolutionize the Future of Manufacturing
Tech experts predict a bright future for 3D printing. Because of its attractive characteristics — rapid, cheaper, and precise manufacturing of objects — the technology can and has been applied in countless different fields.
What Is 3D Printing?
Unlike subtractive manufacturing (cutting out a piece of material with a milling machine), 3D printing creates three-dimensional, solid objects from a digital file by using additive processes. Because of this, 3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing, as it creates objects by laying down successive layers of material until the item is ready. Each layer is visible as a cross-section of the object.
Stages of 3D Printing
3D printing can be a time-consuming process. Depending on the size and complexity of the model, it can take hours or even days to complete. The upside of this is that it offers a quick prototyping solution for almost anything, which makes it extremely useful for designers. Furthermore, you can use it to print items that are too complex to be manufactured in traditional processes. It’s also cost-effective, meaning it can be more affordable than some classical manufacturing methods.
The process of 3D printing includes the following stages:
- Creating—The printing process starts with creating a 3D model with the help of CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software. There are dozens of different applications like SelfCAD, Fusion360, TinkerCAD, Sketchup, and many more that will help you with the Creating process. Created models are often tested in simulations to search for any potential defects in the final product.
SelfCAD is an amazing program that is ideal for both beginners as well as professional 3D modelers. The software itself is affordable, and you don't have to install it on your computer, as it is an online application that offers all the tools you need to Create, Slice, and Print your model! On top of that, beginners will find dozens of tutorials to start their modeling journey.
- Slicing—Once the model is complete, you can get to the next phase, which is digitally dividing the model in preparation for 3D printing. The Slicing process breaks down the model into layers that the printer will have to follow to create a complete object.
Those using SelfCAD are in an advantageous position, as they can not only model their designs in the program, but they can slice them as well, as there is an in-built slicer. On top of that, SelfCAD offers you the tools to Animate and Render your designs. It truly is an all-in-one modeling software.
- 3D Printing—3D printers print models according to the instruction in the G-Code generated by the slicer. There are many different printing methods and a variety of filaments that you can use to create prints.
For example, direct 3D printing uses a method similar to Inkjet technology, in which nozzles dispose of plastic polymers or waxes, and by moving up and down, and back and forth, create each new cross-section of the 3D item. Multi-jet modeling uses dozens of jets working simultaneously to provide a much faster printing process.
Binder 3D printing, on the other hand, includes liquid glue (or a Binder) and dry powder applied together to create each layer of the printed object. Photopolymerization is a process in which a laser with ultraviolet lights converts drops of liquid plastic into a solid.
3D Printing in the Manufacturing
3D Printing has grown rapidly since the time of its conception, and just like 3D modeling, it is now in use in various industries. For example, the automotive industry, aviation, and healthcare all use 3D printing for various purposes, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Additive manufacturing is used in the commercial and the fashion sector as well.
3D printing is nothing new in the car industry, as it has been used there for a long time. Automotive companies use it to print tools, spare parts, fixtures, and jigs. Furthermore, automotive enthusiasts from all over the globe even use 3D printing to produce parts needed to restore the old-timers.
The aviation industry uses 3D printing just as well. With the help of additive manufacturing, GE Aviation has manufactured tens of thousands of Cobalt-chrome fuel nozzles for its LEAP aircraft engines. They managed to merge twenty individual parts into a single 3D print, which ended up 25 percent lighter and stronger at the same time. Thanks to their high level of efficiency, LEAP engines are the best-selling ones in the aerospace industry.
- Jewelry—3D printing offers two ways of producing jewelry: direct and indirect production. The direct process includes the creation of an item straight from the 3D design. Indirect production means a 3D printed pattern is going to be used to create a mold that the company will use in a traditional manufacturing process.
- Eyewear—3D printing is suitable for manufacturing eyewear frames just as well. Due to measurements of each of the individual pairs, it makes it quite easy to process and adjust the final product. An interesting fact when it comes to eyewear is that the lenses can be 3D printed as well!
Healthcare uses 3D printing for manufacturing prosthetics by making them more available and cheaper for those in need. Replicas of organs, including an actual heart, are also being 3D printed and used to make it easier for doctors to prepare for complicated surgeries.
Some medical and tech experts believe that by the year 2025, 3D printed internal organs will be ready to use for surgeries. As of now, the healthcare industry is 3D printing some of the pills. A 3D printed anti-seizure medication, Spiritam, had been patented five years ago.
- The Dental Industry—Molds for clear aligners are probably the most 3D printed products in the world. Dentures and crowns are directly 3D printed. Both powder-based and resin 3D printing methods are used for the production of 3D printed molds.
- Bio-printing—Biotech firms have been studying 3D printing technology since the early 2000s. Their focus is on investigating whether it’s possible to use 3D printing in tissue engineering applications where body parts and organs are created using inkjet methods. The term used for this area of research is bioprinting.
The Top Five Advantages of 3D Printing
3D printing has many advantages, and these are the top five:
#1 Speed - Rapid prototyping
Rapid prototyping is one of the most significant advantages of 3D printing. It is the capability to design, manufacture, and test a customized part, all in a short period. By using 3D printing technology, businesses can create a new element, produce it in-house, and test and evaluate it within a few days.
3D printing is the most cost-effective manufacturing option for small runs and applications. Unlike traditional methods, like CNC machining, with expensive machines and higher labor costs, 3D printing requires little to no equipment and just a few operators. The process of 3D printing ends with less waste material because the object is printed from the ground up
#3 Reduction of Risk
The process of 3D printing guarantees high-quality products. It is due to the fact that the parts are printed in succession. Each element is monitored, allowing operators to catch and solve problems in real-time. This way, the process itself enables businesses to reduce risks in manufacturing.
Another huge benefit of 3D printing lies in its flexibility, as you can use it to manufacture almost anything. But that is not all. You can improve your designs with little to no effort in the modeling software, and you can customize the supports of the objects as well as its infill settings in the slicer without altering the model. 3D printing allows you to produce impossible geometrics, such as cavities within sturdy parts and elements within elements that are impossible to create with traditional manufacturing methods.
Also, the process allows you to include a variety of different materials into a single print, allowing you to experiment with different combinations of textures and colors. Additionally, you don't really need a lot of experience to design and print customized elements yourself. The same goes for designing and producing models using different materials.
3D printing is also very economical when it comes to using resources in production. It generates a lot less wasted materials than traditional manufacturing, and it requires little to none outsourcing for production. It not only allows companies to save money, but it also doesn't affect the environment as much as traditional means of production do. On top of that, materials used in 3D printing can be recycled and used again in future projects.
Future of 3D Printing
3D Printing has been present for decades, but its true potential in the manufacturing process has only been evident in the past few years.
Its popularity has risen enough that now there are dedicated courses and classes in schools to teaching 3D printing, both hardware, and software. In combination with other advanced technologies, including IoT connectivity, cloud technology, and robotics technology, 3D printing takes the leading role in shaping the future of manufacturing and the world at large.
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