The use of 3D printing has been growing more prevalent in various industries at an exponential rate. According to a recent industry report by industry experts, the value of the 3D printing industry is over $7 billion in 2018, which is a big leap from the 2016 figure of $5.1 billion. This manufacturing technology is transforming many different industries.
What is 3D printing?
3D printing, also known as “additive manufacturing,” utilizes a printing machine to create solid three-dimensional objects from a digital file. This is accomplished by using an “additive process,” which means that layers of material are applied repetitively until a complete three dimensional form is produced. This is the opposite of traditional manufacturing techniques, where material is cut away from a solid block to reveal the desired shape.
The automotive industry is heavily reliant on prototypes to create new car models, so this industry was one of the earliest adopters of 3D printing. Auto manufacturers are also using the technology to produce working parts for automobiles. 3D printing is not as cost-efficient for mass-production of automobiles, but it has been useful for small batches of newly-designed vehicles.
As the technology progresses, the automobile industry is being transformed. There are currently some companies that are creating entire vehicles with 3D printing. A small startup company, Local Motors, has printed a self-driving car for low-speed local transportation, and they plan on creating an entire fleet of cars that can be driven on highways.
Architects have been using small models of their building designs for many decades. The invention of 3D printers has allowed architects to easily produce highly-detailed models so they can preview what their designs will look like before they are built at full scale.
This is easily accomplished by creating computer-aided design (CAD) files and hooking up a 3D printer that can rapidly produce a stunning model of the structure. These printed models can be created by inexpensive printers or with more expensive industrial machines that produce more highly-detailed models with a variety of colors and details.
Dental and medical
There are many uses for 3D printing in medicine and dentistry. Printers can produce nearly perfect replicas of bones and other body structures for replacement surgeries. The increased accuracy of the shape and texture leads to better healing and reduces the likelihood of rejection of the artificial part. Doctors also use printed models to analyze body structures without invasive procedures.
These are just a few of the most important examples of how 3D printing has had a transformative impact on various industries, and the progress is only just beginning. Soon, many of the items we use will be produced by 3D printing.