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3D printing technology is booming. But past the euphoria of the start where everyone wants to print anything and everything, we arrive at the practical and above all useful stage. This technology is employed in many sectors and a growing number of companies are adopting it, as it holds immense potential for supply chains, product development. This allows new business models to be created more quickly. But how is it concretely implemented in the industrial process?
Digital manufacturing technology, also known as 3D printing or fabrication additiveallows you to create physical objects from a geometric representation or a computer-aided design (CAD) model, by successive additions of materials.
This technology is truly innovative and versatile. It opens up new opportunities and possibilities for companies looking to improve manufacturing efficiency. Moreover, conventional thermoplastics, ceramics, materials based on graphene and metal are the materials that can now be printed using l’impression 3D.
This technology therefore has the potential to revolutionize industries and change the production chain. Its adoption will increase production speed while reducing costs. How concretely is it implemented in industries?
Which 3D printers for companies?
Printers come in different shapes and sizes and can be configured in different ways depending on the end goals. But commonly, those used in industry can be divided into two distinct types: either molten deposition modeling or SLA (stereolithography), or resin 3D printing.
In the first case, the printer is simply a plotting device. It pushes a molten plastic filament through a hot nozzle to deposit the layers in the printing surface on a previously made frame. After printing, the user removes the support or dissolves it in detergent and water.
In the second case, it is almost the opposite of the first. Instead of melting the plastic in a liquid, the printer uses a UV-reactive liquid that hardens under light. Each layer is ‘hardened’ using an array of LEDs, which emit light in a set pattern.
Freeing itself from the constraints linked to traditional manufacturing techniques, 3D printing is the ideal technology for rapid prototyping, for example (one of its most common uses). There are also more advanced industrial 3D printers used for the mass production of finished objects and operational parts.
Industrial uses of 3D printing
First, in the aerospace industry, 3D printing has the potential to manufacture lightweight parts, improved and complex geometries, which can reduce energy requirements and resources. In fact, it can lead to fuel savings by reducing the material used to produce the parts. Nickel base alloys are preferred due to tensile properties, oxidation/corrosion resistance and damage tolerance.
Secondly, the medical world is an area extremely conducive to the use of this technology, because each person is unique. Indeed, in dentistry, orthopedics and any other field requiring implants (cardiac surgery, etc.), medical products must be perfectly adapted. These areas need parts whose materials and processing meet extremely high quality standards. The same goes for specialized surgical instruments and medical devices.
Then, the use of 3D printing technology in the automotive industry allows the company to try various alternatives and emphasize improvement steps, prompting ideal and efficient automotive design. and reduces waste and material consumption. For example, Ford is the leader in using printing technology to produce prototypes and engine parts.
Fourthly, in the industry of l’architecturebuilding and construction, 3D printing technology is an ecological alternative and offers unlimited possibilities for the realization of complex geometry. Not to mention that companies can design and create the visual of the building quickly and inexpensively, while avoiding delays and helping to identify problem areas. Thus, engineers and architects can communicate more effectively and clearly with their client.
Fifthly, the textile industry is not to be outdone, just like household equipment or any other everyday product. For example, the first generates a huge amount of waste, which ends up in landfills, 3D printing then allows the making of tailor-made and totally personalized clothing.
Surprisingly, we also find this technology in the food industry. Indeed, there is a growing demand for the development of personalized foods for specialized dietary needs, such as athletes, children, pregnant women, patients, etc., which require a different amount of nutrients by reducing the amount unnecessary ingredients and improving the presence of healthy ingredients. Concretely, using 3D printing technology, specific materials can be mixed (enzymes, vitamins, etc.) and transformed into various complex structures and shapes.
Artificial intelligence, the future of 3D printing
Scientists and engineers are constantly developing new new materials with unique properties that can be used for 3D printing, but figuring out how to print with these materials can be a complex and costly puzzle.
Often, an expert operator must multiply the tests – possibly making thousands of impressions – to determine the ideal parameters (speed of printing and quantity of material deposited), allowing an efficient systematic printing.
The researchers of WITH have recently developed a artificial intelligence to streamline this procedure, based on machine learning using computer vision to monitor the manufacturing process and then correct errors in the way it processes material in real time. This could make it easier for engineers to incorporate new materials into their prints, which could help them develop objects with particular electrical or chemical properties. It could also help technicians adjust the printing process quickly if material or environmental conditions change unexpectedly.
3D printing technology is therefore an ally of choice, becoming essential in many industrial fields. The constant development of new techniques and materials will surely allow companies to adapt to our world in full economic, technical, societal and climatic upheaval.