3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, is the process of creating a three-dimensional object directly from a computer file, by forming the object in successive layers from the base to the top. 3D printing has sparked off a revolution in different industries. It has reduced the cost of producing intricate parts and dramatically increased the speed of creating prototypes. The following examples reveal how 3D printing can be used to promote innovation, and to design and create products that were difficult to produce with traditional manufacturing methods.
Mass Customisation of Cars
3D printing helps to overcome the limitations that the CNC production process imposes on car manufacturers who need to make a large number of bespoke finishes. Customers regularly demand for these customised cars because it makes them feel really special and they will like their cars to look distinct from others.
This is where aftermarket tuners outperform the OEM car designers. With powerful 3D printers, and rigid opaque plastics, it is possible to produce parts such as 14″ wheels, badges, switch gears and light surrounds to differentiate one car from another. This is what Honda has done to satisfy customers who want bespoke versions of Honda Access.
Rapid and Precise Design and Development of Tyres
Producers of high quality tyre brands need to make use of advanced material science, while paying attention to the structure of the compound and the diverse cuts on the rubber to create countless combinations. While manufacturing tyres for a global market in hundreds of countries spread across six continents, with the need to provide tyres for motorbikes, cars and trucks, it is necessary to find the most efficient and economical way to design and construct them.
For this reason, creating full printed tyres through rapid prototyping with 3D printers can reduce the time required to collaborate between design, engineering and production by up to 70 percent. This will ultimately lead to better overall performance and greater profits.
Reduce the Time Required to Build a Villa
Ordinarily, a 400 square meter villa will take at least 3 months to construct using conventional building methods. But by attaching a robotic arm to a special 3D printer head, it is possible to complete the task within 45 days or less. That is exactly what a Chinese building firm did. They constructed a full-sized home by printing the concrete on a steel frame. Each wall has a thickness of 250mm and the building has the capacity to cope with an earthquake which measures 8 on a Richter scale.
While designing and constructing this kind of house with 3D printing technology, it is possible to include elegant turrets that traditional builders will have a hard time building. Using 3D printing cuts the costs of labour and materials as well as shortening the time to complete the project.
Use an Army of Printers to Create Skyscrapers
It is possible to deploy a massive 3D printer to construct a building. But a more efficient approach is to put together smaller machines, which may not be larger than desktop printers. One set of machines will lay the foundation of the building while another group of machines can be used to build the walls to the desired height.
These machines are lightweight and easy to move around. Construction firms can deploy as many machines as needed to speed up the pace of work on the project. Interestingly, these machines work round the clock and they can be positioned up side down to print the ceiling.
Design and Build Complex and Durable Components
Additive manufacturing makes the design of complicated parts easier, cheaper and faster. It is now possible to consolidate different parts into a single component, thus reducing the time and cost required for assembly. It also makes future modifications in design easier to accomplish. For example, General Electric manufactured a single part fuel nozzle that was previously created with up to 20 different parts. Consolidating a design normally requires joining of different parts with conventional manufacturing methods like welding and fastening. This usually reduces durability and reliability.
Eliminate the Waste Involved in Spares Manufacturing
Spare parts inventory is usually maintained to fix grounded airplanes. Inventory is needed for complex parts, old aircraft spares and those used at remote locations. However, many aerospace component manufacturers report that these spare parts remain unused and eventually become obsolete.
With 3D manufacturing, there is little or no need to keep old tooling. It cuts down the costs of storage and the waste that occurs when the parts become obsolete. For instance, BAE Systems manufactures window breather pipes on-demand for regional jetliners at 60 percent less than the cost of producing them through injection moulding. The spares can now be produced on-demand or at the station where they are needed.
The three sectors: automotive, building construction, and aerospace have increasing demand for parts, components, and complete products manufactured with 3D printing technology. This is the best time to start exploring the nearly infinite options and possibilities created by improvements in additive manufacturing tools and systems.