From racing cars to life-changing medical operations, 3D printing is opening up opportunities for businesses to be more creative – and saving them time and money in the process.
Additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing, has been in existence since the 1980s, but modern technological advancements in printers and materials have recently created a boom in the number of businesses using it. The 3D printing industry is expected to be worth $21bn by 2020, but how are businesses using it and why? We spoke to SMEs from a variety of sectors for their experiences.
A company working to end American dependency on Russian rockets used 3D printing to prototype its latest development.
Aerojet Rocketdyne’s high-thrust AR1 booster engine can be used for heavy launch vehicles such as the Atlas V. It was commissioned by the Air Force to replace the RD-180, which is built in Russia and used on the Atlas V.
The same company that built the RS-25 engines for the space shuttle, Aerojet Rocketdyne proposed the AR1 to the U.S. government in 2014, arguing that it could be produced in the United States relatively inexpensively. The booster generates an impressive 500,000 pounds-force of thrust at sea level and runs on liquid-oxygen propellants and an oxygen-rich staged combustion kerosene engine.
Ford, BMW already on board; medical deemed biggest opportunity in years ahead
The 3D-printing technology developed by Carbon (Redwood City, CA) has grabbed the attention of plastic parts manufacturers because it enables printing speeds that are up to 100 times faster than current additive manufacturing methods. Beyond introducing a new technology, CEO Joseph DeSimone believes his company’s innovation could open the door to new business models by offering manufacturers unprecedented efficiencies and savings.
The company calls its technology continuous liquid interface production, or CLIP. DeSimone has a simpler way of describing it, explaining that the Carbon process uses light and oxygen to shape a part as it emerges from a pool of resin. The company says this approach to 3D printing permits a faster, continuous process that produces parts matching the quality of injection-molded plastics.
Much anticipation has been built around the future of the automotive and aerospace industries in the wake of recent advancements in 3D-printing technologies. But what’s often overlooked is the way 3D printing can also revolutionize the transportation infrastructure industry.
Take for example the new technologies Stratasys demonstrated for the first time at the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago. One of the company’s new technologies is an “Infinite-Build” system that’s designed to print parts on a vertical plane, essentially making it possible to print parts of virtually any size.
Major industrial companies have been making serious acquisitions lately, seeking to strengthen their capabilities with metal additive manufacturing. Brent Balinski spoke to Mark Cola, co-founder and CEO of Sigma Labs, about what it all means.
The last few months have been big ones for industrial, no-gimmick 3D printing, for areas including aerospace.
In early September, GE Aviation – already a leading adopter – announced that it would spend $US 1.4 billion acquiring Germany’s SLM Solutions and Sweden’s Arcam.
The two European companies manufacture machines that use lasers and electron beams, respectively, to fuse metal powders – including titanium alloys – as well as offer expertise in areas such as powder metallurgy and software.
The advent of the Internet of Things has emerged just when 3D printing begins to make solid inroads into manufacturing end-user parts. What do these two developments mean for company operations?
PCB designers are adopting 3D printing to prototype and manufacture parts for IoT devices more quickly and effectively.
IoT and 3D printing might look like the greatest marriage of two buzzwords in the history of tech. The internet of things, after all, unlike the internet of applications and data, takes up 3D space and uses physical materials, including the electronics that control devices and carry their data home. The ability of 3D printers to produce one-offs from CAD designs cheaply and quickly promotes experimentation and is therefore a boon to designers. It should not surprise, then, that in the past few years we’ve begun to see the convergence of IoT and 3D printing, with 3D printing applied to the prototyping and even manufacturing of circuitry and printed circuit boards, much of it for IoT devices.
The term “3D” is used loosely in this context. Good old 2D laser printers have been used by hobbyists to print flat circuit designs. These prints, transferred to a blank, copper-clad FR4 (flame-resistant fiberglass) board, make the mask that shields the copper from the “etching” acid bath that eats away all the unshielded copper in between your circuit’s conductive traces. Most of the “3D” board prototyping printers now available or in development are actually printing 2D lines of conductive ink — i.e., traces — in 3D space, using printheads that can be directed along X, Y and Z axes.
When you think about the dentist, you’re probably not thinking about high tech gadgets – at the most, you’re probably thinking about those fancy chairs, and those fearsome drills and other instruments of terror. But it turns out that dental labs and dental hospitals are picking up on one of the most exciting areas in technology today – 3D printing.
Although medical 3D printing does exist, don’t get too excited here – these printers don’t print out a replacement tooth for you on demand, or anything like that. That’s in the pipeline, but right now, the printers are used to fabricate stone models quickly and accurately – the models can then be used to plan your procedure.
Small businesses are contributing to the development of 3D printing with exciting avenues being pursued.
The transformative abilities of 3D printing have been seen across many industries such as manufacturing, medical and aerospace. Further growth is happening now in smaller scale use, for example in education and small business. New research from IDC shows the global 3D printing market is on track to continue its expansion, as it is forecast to exceed $46 billion (about US$35 billion) by 2020, double the $21 billion (about US$15.9 billion) forecasted for 2016.*
At Y Soft, we believe that organisations looking to incorporate 3D printing should consider its use in rapid prototyping and product development.
3D printing raises a number of issues for copyright owners already facing the challenges of the internet and other digital technologies. The photocopier copies documents. Digital technologies and the internet have resulted in the copying of films and music. Now with 3D printing, three dimensional articles can be easily copied. And the copies can be mass produced or custom made potentially depriving the copyright owner of substantial revenuesi.
While copying of articles has always been an issue for copyright laws, it is the potential scale of copying and the use of digital technology which may see the development of the law in this area.
- Existing laws relating to the design copyright overlap will apply to the making of articles by 3D printing. With a few exceptions, the making of copy articles by 3D printing will not infringe copyright where the copyright owner has made and sold the article.
- The provisions in the Copyright Act relating to “reverse engineering” (although not described as such) provide that it is not an infringement of copyright to make a drawing depicting an article as part of the process of making that article by reverse engineering if the making of the article itself does not infringe copyright.
- However, the reverse engineering defence will not apply to the making of a copy of a digital file used in making the copy of the article because the digital file is a literary work and the relevant defence only applies to artistic works.
- Copyright owners are likely to face challenges to the ownership of copyright in the digital files on the basis that it can be argued that there is no human author of the digital file.
Manufacturers are increasingly facing new challenges as they look to stay competitive in the global market place. From changing market forces to the need for increased production efficiency, the issues are broad. And all whilst trying to ensure that the quality of their goods is exceptional and customer response times are kept to a minimum.
It’s clear that manufacturers must innovate in order to tackle these difficulties, and while many are keen to change the way their businesses run for the better, they are also concerned about the mounting pressures around cost and volume of materials used. Today, 3D printing can help tackle some of these challenges, offering transformative advantages at every phase of creation, from initial concept design to production of final products and the steps in between.