3D Printing Changes the Game

Many believe that 3D printing is more of a fringe tech-enthusiast’s game than a real industry disrupter… and they’re completely wrong.

A variety of car manufacturers have begun to 3D print small, specialized car parts, and it’s only a matter of time before 3D printing technology advances to the point that larger objects can be built for cheaper.

“In the coming year, we are going to see 3D metal parts being flight-tester in real applications, not just trivial parts, e.g., brackets, hinges, flanges,¬†attached to noncritical components,” stated Tim Simpson, professor of mechanical engineering at Penn State.

Simpson isn’t alone in noticing that additive manufacturing-manufacturing in which parts are created through layering of materials- is actually less faster and less expensive that the more conventional subtractive manufacturing in which a product is made by cutting or pressing it out of a material.

“Meanwhile, companies that don’t get into the game will start to lose employees to those that are readily using AM, which will create a further divide between companies that want to do AM and those that can do AM,” Simpson continued. “Buying a machine is the easier part; learning how to run it well is challenging.”

3d print2Clearly the technology is quickening its pace to the point that companies will soon be competing for mastery over it. But why?

“The use of 3D printing brings professionals from different areas to collaborate, and innovation is a side effect of these collaborations,” explained M. Zuniga. “The main benefits are low cost, speed, versatility and innovation.”

And 3D printing has something to offer to more than the manufacturing world.

“Industries leveraging 3D printing in a sizable way today include dental; smoother medical, such as hearing aids and surgical models; some limited and specific aerospace applications; and then the widely applicable consumer space for education, design and customization of collectibles,” listed Michael Raphael, CEO of Direct Dimensions.

“I look for applications where the design is essentially consistent yet where each of them is unique for some reason… Dental and medical are obvious. Teeth are essentially the same, but each is different. 3D printing shines for these applications because no tooling is required, and you can make them each unique just as easy as you can make them all the same,” he explained.

3d print3“Following this paradigm, I look for adoption in other human body-related products. Medical devices provide a good case, such as orthotics, braces and splints. Other extractions would include protective gear, sports and performance gear, and footwear.”

Raphael did indeed strike gold with the medical field. As Steven J. Hausman, president of Hausman Technology Presentations explained, “Patients have already received 3D-printed jaws, ribs, sternum, teeth, tracheas and skulls… there will be no part of the body that will not be duplicated int he future, ranging from inexpensive customized prosthetics to bioprinted organs using the patient’s own stem cells so that tissue rejection will not be an issue.”

Soon even the gastronomic market will be flooded with 3D printed products: “3D printing has gained traction in the food industry, wherein pasta, candy and other foods can already be printed,” confided Chinh Pham, co-leader of the Greenberg Traurig.

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