3D printing has been around for a long time and is transitioning. Over the last few decades, this rapid prototyping technology has been creating a lot of opportunities in manufacturing—from a well-defined approach to design and development to low-cost manufacturing. In the recent past, we were still getting fascinated at the capabilities of machines that could 3D print a tiny replica of our chair or a well-known building. A couple of years later, the next generation of machines would be able to print medical devices such as surgical instruments, implants, and dental restorations, as well as implantable human body parts. Meanwhile, the technology has also progressed rapidly for industry applications—and it’s a field to become much high-profile in 2020.
Additive manufacturing, however, reduces the complexity: we can assemble a geometrically very complex product as effectively as a less complex one. And yet, the technology helps in reducing complexity by giving us fewer parts to build.
3D printing helps us in building objects with new materials, in turn, driving materials science research to build part using new materials that are best suited to the additive process. Supported by AI and driven by 3D printing, the discovery of new materials is expected to advance this year. In addition, the technology plays a significant role in the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0); it will help overturn customary economies of scale, making microfactories financially proficient; and it’s currently adding to reshape worldwide supply chains, reinforcing local networks.
In the months ahead, the evolution of 3D printing will itself give rise to some of the most exciting discoveries. 3D printing manufacturers are striving to improve the performance of their machines considering various factors:
Large-scale 3D printers will be able to print objects rapidly. For AM to work full-scale, 3D printers need to print objects at much greater volumes i.e. by tuning the printing speed. Bob Swartz, the founder of Impossible Objects, has already started tuning the speeds of 3D printers, with thermal inkjet technology, that uses the speed properties of 2D printing. Not long ago, the company introduced another machine intended to be multiple times faster than conventional 3D printing processes. This year, you can expect more new achievements and records to be broken.