While 3D printing hasn’t exactly lived up to its hype yet, it is nonetheless permeating various industries. By the end of 2020, 6.7 million units are expected to be shipped worldwide. The estimate underscores the slow but sure rise of 3D printing.
That being said, let’s have a look at some industries where 3D
printing seems to be making the most impact.
The aerospace industry is fast becoming one of 3D printing’s biggest
beneficiaries. A CNN article entitled ‘How 3D Printers Are Transforming Flying’ notes how the world’s top aerospace firms, including Boeing and Airbus, are starting to use 3D printing to print various airplane parts. These firms are then able to speed up the manufacturing process, save money,
and manufacture fuel-efficient aircraft. Airbus rolled out one of the
first airplanes with 3D printed parts. Boeing, on the other hand, 3D
prints approximately 60,000 of the over 6 million parts of its aircraft.
It has even invested in 3D printing company Digital Alloy, while Airbus
has partnered with Materialise. 3D printing’s role in the industry will
likely get even bigger in the coming years, what with the International
Air Transport Association forecasting a 50% increase in airline passengers by 2037, which will likely lead to the need for more efficiency in building
Medicine and 3D printing are a perfect match. The technology is a
natural progression to detailed imaging via laser scanning, magnetic
resonance imaging, and computerized tomography. 3D printing has made it possible to make complete 3D models of human anatomy — quickly, accurately, and cheaply. Doctors, including those at the University of Maryland Medical Center, can then peruse these 3D models to get greater insights into the human body, spot abnormalities, and even prepare for surgeries.
Moreover,3D printing now allows the creation of medical devices like prosthetics, implants, and surgical guides.
The Future of Things also outlines the major advancements in 3D
printing in medicine, such as 3D printed body tissues courtesy of
bio-printing, along with manufacturing surgical tools via 3D inkjet printing.
Indeed, some of the 3D printing’s most incredible uses are in medicine, and
they are only getting better.
3D printing has entered electronics, too. But it isn’t printing electronic
devices — at least not yet. Instead, it is disrupting the tiny but
powerful devices that are part of our devices in the form of printed circuit boards (PCBs). These are the boards that connect electronic components and are used in a range of electronic products, like smartphones, computers, and TVs.
Traditionally the process involves the substrate, drilling, and soldering. However, making a PCB with a 3D printer has revolutionized the process, speeding it up considerably while maintaining industry standards. Additionally, 3D printing PCBs is cost-efficient, as it reduces human error and eliminates budget-intensive steps, such as making prototypes and outsourcing designs.
These benefits, in turn, can lead to creating cheaper electronic
products to increasing PCB-related innovation as well as manufacturing products with integrated PCBs.
We reported last year how the Ford Performance team used
3D printing in building the Mustang Shelby GT500, where the
team 3D printed prototypes of various car parts at Ford’s Advanced
Manufacturing Center. This improved the effectiveness of the designs and reduced production time. These benefits underscore why 3D printing is
making inroads in the automotive industry.
At the moment, car manufacturers tend to use 3D printing for prototypes. Case in point, Ford Motor employs the technology extensively, using it to make prototypes of vehicle parts such as cylinder heads, brake rotors, shift knobs, and vents. The renowned carmaker has even used 3D printing to make engines for its Explorer and EcoBoost models. Other car manufacturers, like General Motors, are doing the same, while some, notably Urbee, are even 3D printing prototypes of whole vehicles. In the future, 3D printed cars might soon be seen on roads across the world.