Expanding The 3D Printing Technology Into New Industries

With 3D printing, designers have turned digital models into precise objects and leading companies are exploring zero-gravity 3D printing for the aerospace industry. However, Silicon Valley and venture capitalists haven’t shown enough support for the technology. Zintro experts discuss which industries they think should integrate 3D printing into prototyping.

According to Michael Plishka, an expert in tactical innovation and product development, 3D printing isn’t ready for primetime until fully assembled, accurate systems are available. “There are various 3D manufacturing technologies and they are depicted in the media as all being equal. Materials are hardly cheap and the properties are not yet up to par with other production methods. Not every 3D printed part can successfully replace a molded or machined component with the same reliability,” he points out. “The cheaper printers that are ready to print have small build envelopes and accuracy is often only sufficient for the most rudimentary products/toys.” Despite its contribution to medical technology, Plishka believes that we haven’t yet taken full advantage of the 3D printing technology. “Instead of trying to shoe-horn 3D printing into a role it may not be the best for, we need to think creatively and take advantage of the inherent properties of 3D printing and build upon that as is being done in much of the medical work,” he adds.

As design and simulation expert, Eric Rivers indicates, with the 3D printing technology, the reality of the scope of the design is diminished or increased, depending on the actual size of the part. “When working on the computer and visualizing your parts in 3D on a 19″ or 30″ screen, the actual size and magnitude of component gets lost. This problem can lead to poor decisions due to a loss of reality of magnitude,” he explains. Nevertheless, Rivers considers 3D printed parts invaluable for reverse engineering or improving an existing assembly. “I recently had an issue with a modification that required new parts within the assembly. There was very little information on the components of the assembly and access to the mating items to measure was limited,” he adds. “I estimated the size of the items and had accurate 3D components made and then placed the 3D items into the assembly to see how well they fit. These printed parts allowed me to verify and make changes to the design to make sure that the new parts would work.”

Jan Halfar, commercial 3D artist and project manager in game development, draws attention to the fact that 3D printing has been a mature technology with existing market availability of affordable printers for industrial and even office use for more than 8 years. “The possibilities seem really endless with different printing technologies to choose from, varying in sturdiness of used material, precision or price. You can create an impossibly detailed, fully colored plastic figure in one session, an industry grade mould for casting, or with the new materials even a rubber sole,” Halfar notes. “There is a company that offers to bring you virtual character from World of Warcraft game to real world as small statue.Basically this technology brings us so very close to idea of Star Trek’s Replicator.”

Rajat Sanyal, an expert in applied mathematics and software development, foresees a more revolutionized manufacturing industry considering how the 3D printing technology will make it possible to manufacture extremely complicated and intricate objects at a very low cost. “It will bring down the inventory cost for many companies, as the companies would not have to stock finished goods or transport them over long distances. Companies would be in a position to print the items as and when required by the end consumer,” says Sanyal. “Another area being looked into is the use of 3D printers for printing pre-fab structures, which would have a revolutionary effect on the construction industry.”

By Idil Kan

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