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Insights Into The Future Of 3D Printing

Monday, February 02, 2015
By Prasad Rodagi

Prasad Rodagi is Founder and Director, Altem Technologies

While the world is trying to build 3D-printed houses, India remains a few steps behind in terms of awareness and capabilities of 3D printing. 3D Printing is the ability to convert a 3D CAD design from the CAD screen to a 3D Physical Model in-hand without any tooling or human intervention. With the Stratasys range of professional 3D Printers provided by Altem Technologies, it is just a matter of pushing a button. In simple words, 3D printer converts a digital geometry into a physical part in a jiffy.

In India, this technology is already popular in aerospace, defence, automobile manufacturing industries, and gaining momentum in the field of education. The use of 3D Printing can reduce time in the design prototyping and also in prototype manufacturing tooling and has several other benefits in terms of cost.

3D printed Injection Mold tools are suitable for small production series and they are commercially viable also when only a few parts are needed. The Stratasys Polyjet-based 3D printed injection molding tool (PIMT) can be built very cheaply and rapidly, and are typically ready to inject in a matter of a few hours. 3D printing technology is already having an effect in the way that products are manufactured – the very nature of the technology permits new ways of thinking in terms of the social, economic, environmental and security implications of the manufacturing process with universally favourable results.

One of the key factors is that 3D printing has the potential to bring production closer to the end user and/or the consumer, thereby reducing the current supply chain restrictions. The customization value of 3D printing and the ability to produce significantly small production batches on demand is a certain way to engage consumers and reduce or negate inventories and stock piling.

Shipping spare parts and products from one part of the world to the other could potentially become obsolete, as the spare parts might possibly be 3D printed on site. This could have a major impact on how businesses - large and small- and consumers operate and interact on a global scale in the future.

Today, previously impossible shapes and geometries can be created with a 3D printer, but the journey has really just begun. 3D printing is believed by many to have great potential to inject growth into innovation and bring back local manufacturing.

The advent of 3D printing has seen a proliferation of products (designed in digital environments), which involve levels of complexity that simply could not be produced physically in any other way. While this advantage has been taken up by designers and artists to impressive visual effect, especially in the field of Architecture, it has also made a significant impact on industrial applications, whereby applications are being developed to materialize complex components that are proving to be both lighter and stronger than their predecessors. Notable uses are emerging in the aerospace sector where these issues are of primary importance.

In Manufacturing: The product development process is one of the most cost, time and labour-intensive stages. For low to medium volume applications, industrial 3D printing can eliminate the need for tool production and, therefore, the costs, lead times and labour associated with it. Additionally, products &components can be designed specifically to avoid assembly requirements with elaborate geometry and intricate features further eliminating the labour and costs associated with assembly processes.

Aerospace: The aerospace industry, globally & in India, are adopting this technology to print parts, thereby trimming costs. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is said to have 30 printed parts – a record in the industry.

With the advent of metal 3D Printers, the refurbishment divisions are breathing easier as older aircrafts will gain a new lease of life, even if certain parts are out of production. 3D Printers can also be valuable in space exploration missions, once we develop the capabilities to print crucial parts.

Education: 3D Printing at a school level introduces students to the present state of the art technological tool that they would engage in their careers as designers and Engineers and to confidentially brace to the challenges in their domains.  Educators have to ensure that the students are enabled with all the available tools to transform themselves from passive listeners to active workforce for their and the country’s vivid future. 3D Printing offers unhindered creativity for the Students and academicians to realise their concepts without any constraints and in real time.

Architecture & Design: 3D printing helps in designing more intricate shapes and patterns that might be able to be manufactured with traditional fabrication methods. 3D Printing also aids architects in reducing the amount of time it takes to create architecture models and fix any possible design errors

Biomedical: 3D Printed models derived from the scans go a long way to communicate the condition of the patient and also can contribute to the diagnosis of Pathological conditions. Pre surgical consultation, preparation and also to have trial procedures before carrying out complex surgical procedures with the 3D printed model can revolutionize the way the Health industry braces itself to the challenging contemporary health care and treatment more tangibly. This can be a disruptive technology in health care as the days are not far when it would be possible to print human organs, tissues and bone implants.

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