In this Q&A, Gartner analyst Pete Basiliere discusses how advancements in 3D printing may move beyond prototyping to help improve traditional manufacturing processes.
Although 3D printing technology is not new, aside from a few use cases and industries, it has yet to make significant inroads as a manufacturing alternative. However, developments in 3D printing technology — also known as additive manufacturing — continue to advance, with new printing machines, processes and materials becoming available. Equally important are the software systems that help companies manage and run 3D printing and newly emerging 3D printing networks that can enable it on demand for organizations that don’t want to implement such activities in-house. In this interview at the recent Rapid + TCT trade show of 3D printing technology, Pete Basiliere, Gartner research vice president for additive manufacturing, spoke about the industry and how 3D printing may become an integral part of manufacturing processes.
What new applications do you see 3D printing being adopted for over the next year or two?
3D Printing has been widely used for over three decades; primarily for prototyping and low volume or specialized production. However, novel technologies have recently been developed by start-up companies that will enable the transition of 3D printing from a niche process technology to cost-effective additive manufacturing for large parts produced in high volume.
Examples include bike frames, baby strollers, outdoor gear, sporting goods, mobility devices, and furniture.
Jetsons! Do you remember the erstwhile animation series that had been an addiction for many? Well who won’t! It gave us a glimpse of the far-fetched future that only existed in our imagination.
Well, a 3D printer has come up as the most innovative and useful tool in recent times that reminds us of the fantasy that we once thought to be implausible. From computer parts to prosthetic limbs to dolls and bicycles, 3D printers have been utilised to create almost anything and everything.
3D printing has revolutionised a number of primary industries like aerospace and automotive. But today, this technology is also benefitting small and medium sized businesses. It doesn’t matter whether you sell t-shirts, shoes, clothes, cars or caps. With 3D printing you can create the right prototype for communicating with your customers visually.
There’s a lot of hype surrounding 3D printing technology, but in spite—or perhaps because—of that, one might wonder whether additive manufacturing is all it’s cracked up to be. Are we really in the midst of a new age of additive manufacturing?
Kirk Rogers, technology lead at the GE Center for Additive Technology in Pittsburgh, seems to think so. In a keynote presentation at the Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show (CMTS), he discussed several examples of how GE is using additive manufacturing today.
The Marines are planning to take their do-it-yourself ethos further and begin prototyping, manufacturing and deploying full-blown 3D printed systems, such as surveillance drones.
The Marines were the first service to 3D print military-grade ammunition and spare parts for weapon systems.
In the coming weeks the service will deploy a tiny unmanned aircraft dubbed the “Nibbler,” which would become the first 3D printed drone used in combat operations by conventional forces. Marines see it as just the beginning of a new way of equipping and supplying forces in the field.
Modular bathrooms, complete kitchen concepts and even a whole house has been constructed using 3D printing technology. It marks the dawning of a new era in the construction of places, spaces, services, tools and parts. But how is 3D printing changing the face of our industry – for good and for bad?
“As the technology is refined, 3D printing could mark a
new era in building houses,” states the recently published Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) Farsight 2016 report. “[Through 3D printing] every component can
be produced to exact specifications to reduce or even eliminate construction waste. Additionally, the technology allows for the production of complex shapes, helping to create sturdier structures using less materials and meeting a growing consumer preference for personalised design,” the report states.
Experts also predict the technology will print modern-day necessities such as plumbing, and even electricity, at the same time as a home is being constructed.