Top 3 Trends In 3D Printing
As 3D printing technologies continue to mature, we see the industry making significant headway in bridging the gap between prototyping and mass manufacturing. The driving force behind this progress can be accredited to strategic partnerships drawn between industrial giants and 3D printing manufacturers.
For example; Stratsys' recently partneredi with Singapore Airlines Engineering Company to explore the redesign of flight components. Meanwhile, in the medical field, the push for patient specific products has resulted in 98% of all hearing aids worldwide being manufactured using 3D printed technologies. Such developments have also increased the need for material innovation; specifically 3D printable production grade materials for end-use parts.
These factors all play an integral role in forming the trends that hope to better integrate 3D printing into our lives; from improving on material technology to customized medical experiences through to aviation, 3D printing is an incredibly exciting field with a promising future. Here's a look at the top 3 trends we think will further propel the industry.
The explosive growth of metal printing over recent years can be accredited to the earliest adopters of 3D printing; industries that require high value, low volume metal end-use parts. A few examples of such industries include; aerospace, aviation, dentistry and jewelry design.
In addition to being uniquely positioned to reap the benefits of 3D metal printing, these industries have increasingly made heavier infrastructural investments into metal printing technologies. For example; aerospace manufacturers have made a recent $3.5 billion investment in a production plant dedicated to manufacturing 100,000 fuel nozzles annually by the year 2020 using only 3D metal printing. Similarly, NASA have also stated their intentions in adopting 3D metal printing solutions to produce 80%+ of future rocket engines. In the dental field, parts such as copings and bridges are currently being made using metal printing to deliver patient specific solutions. While jewelry designers utilize the technology to create complex, bespoke geometry that is otherwise difficult or too expensive to achieve using traditional, subtractive methods.
Each of these industries is key to the maturation of 3D metal printing technology.
The role of 3D printing in the medical field remains a novel practice with room for increasingly sophisticated applications. Currently, medical professionals use printing technologies to advance physician training, improve device testing and strengthen surgical planning in the hope of transforming the way healthcare services are delivered.
At Mount Sinai's Health System, the Department of Neurosurgery has made in-house 3D printing available to their clinicians. Using this educational tool, surgeons are able to use patient-specific models as surgery guides to improve patient outcome by reducing the recovery period that typically follows surgery.
3D printing solutions can also be found in dentistry, where printed models can be purchased as end-use products. For example; EnvisionTEC recently received FDA approval for the E-denture, a material used to print life-like dentures. This material is also available in four natural shades and is customized to meet patient requirements, both ergonomically and aesthetically.
ROLE OF 3D PRINTING IN AVIATION
As more and more 3D printed end-use parts begin to take flight, aviation and business leaders look to the future to better understand how to integrate 3D printing solutions into their workflows.
Under the oversight FAA, airline carriers are slowly beginning to incorporate 3D printed parts on airplanes, namely non-metallic components in the passenger compartment like window shades and brackets. While changes may appear incremental, 3D printing technologies are forecasted to play a pivotal role in reducing airline inventory and alleviating existing supply chain constrains, like re-tooling. According to Boeing spokesperson Nathan Hullings, Boeing has already installed over 20,000 non-metallic 3D printed parts in their airplanes. Similarly, Singaporean Airlines has embarked on a partnership with Stratysys to explore how printing solutions might play a role in improving the flexibility of their business model through, from product innovation through to just-in-time production.