3D Printing; One would have certainly come across the term in the last couple of decades. If you are still wondering whether it’s going to get a grand entrance? It may or may not. Nonetheless, it has been tacitly expanding its imprint across the globe.
3D Printing! What is it?
3D Printing is an additive manufacturing process of three-dimensional objects aided by designing software. The process starts with a computer-aided design in case of a new one or a three-dimensional scanner to replicate an object, followed by printing.
In 1984, Charles Hull patented his stereolithography process, the precursor for three-dimensional printing. Subsequently, various corporations over the next few decades improved the design into what we have now as a 3D printer.
How is it different?
3D printing is an additive manufacturing process created by building horizontal layers of chosen material to a design specification. While the traditional manufacturing being subtractive, arriving at a final product from a variety of raw materials, resulting in a large quantity of wastage over due course of the process.
- 3D printing is a step towards waste reduction. Considering we live in a land of limited resources, optimisation of resources is imperative in the era of booming consumerism.
- Being an additive process, it drastically reduces the time and cost involved in developing prototypes. The machines work in tandem with computers allowing designers and engineers to experiment before committing to the final design.
- 3D Printing has the potential to change the perception of manufacturing as capital and labour-intensive sector. While there are high-end 3D printers for large scale manufacturing, it also allows small & medium-sized business to venture into production.
What does it print?
The advantage of a 3D printer is its ability to work with an array of input materials. Plastic, glass, wax, metal, polymer, food material, human tissue are a part of the growing list.
Fields of Application:
3D printing is highly customisable, which gives it a wide range of application.
The aerospace industry is one of the biggest benefactors of 3D printing, for its applications in prototyping & manufacturing of accessories. Those include jet engines, shields and covering cases for turbine engines, engine blades, fans and other discs.
3D has simplified the process of designing and building customisable car bodies. It allows manufacturers to meet the demands of consumers. It also extends its application in designing, simulating quality tests for automobile parts like Engines, gearbox, turbochargers, pistons, connecting rods, car wheels and brakes.
Medical Science and Research:
3D bioprinting has made replicating skin tissues and organs possible. Designing and producing artificial limbs can be done at a low cost. It would also reduce the practical constraints arising during organ donation.
3D printing extends its application in consumer apparels domain. Small scale businesses can venture into furniture, fashion apparels, interior designers goods (lighting and decorative), jewellery, accessories of mobiles/communication devices.
3D printing has made certain aspects of architectural designing less strenuous. It has simplified the process of quality assurance and helps in simulating structural tests optimising the time and effort put in highly customised buildings.
It has increased the potential of conserving energy used in the production of transistors, optical instruments, conductive materials
Chocolate manufacturers and bakers now have an efficient tool to customise their products.
What can we expect in future?
The aerospace industry has seen the potential of 3d printing in the production of the main components. Healthcare industries could use it extensively in providing affordable services. The future rests on how the leading industrialists and entrepreneurs embrace this technology.