The Definitive Guide to 3D Printing: 4 key trends in additive manufacturing

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Stock image. 3D printing has secured a firm place at the heart of processes throughout product design and manufacturing (Credit: Shutterstock)
Stock image. 3D printing has secured a firm place at the heart of processes throughout product design and manufacturing (Credit: Shutterstock)

For a while after its invention in the 1980s, 3D printing was little known outside of engineering and manufacturing circles. The same cannot be said anymore.

Whether 3D printers are being used to produce PPE during the Covid-19 pandemic or to transform turbomachinery, they have secured a firm place at the heart of processes throughout product design and manufacturing.  

This week, industry leaders Stratasys, Laser Lines, 3D Systems and Boston Micro Fabrication worked with Professional Engineering to create The Definitive Guide to 3D Printing. Here are four key trends highlighted throughout the week.  

Additive manufacturing (AM) is filling gaps in the supply chain 

Outsourcing, staffing problems and the Covid-19 pandemic have severely disrupted global supply chains, said Claire Barker, general manager North & East EMEA at Stratasys. Thankfully, 3D printing can help.  

“Firms are increasingly onshoring production to secure their supply chains and using AM machines to fill gaps in stock inventories,” Barker said. “3D printers are a flexible, reliable and on-demand way to produce some of the key parts essential to them.” 

AM is helping turbomachinery manufacturers adapt to lean manufacturing 

For over 30 years, AM has helped enhance the capabilities, reliability and efficiency of turbomachinery components, 3D Systems highlighted. Printed features such as conformal cooling channels allow manufacturers to optimise functionality.  

It is also helping them adapt to lean manufacturing. A smooth workflow, increased quality, limited waste and on-demand manufacturing are just some of the benefits, 3D Systems said.  

Micro 3D printing is on the rise 

For traditional parts and components, 3D printing often becomes less economical than injection moulding as production volume increases. With micro-scale 3D printing, however, those standard rules do not really apply, according to BMF. This is because the moulds for very small components are more expensive, but less material is needed for the parts.  

Advantages offered by micro 3D printing include flexibility, lower material and chemical requirements, and elimination of mould and tooling costs, BMF said.  

New capabilities are enabling new innovation 

Laser Lines, the UK’s leading end-to-end 3D printing partner, highlighted new capabilities moving deeper into the manufacturing space. Selective absorption fusion™ (SAF), stereolithography (SLA) and P3 polymerisation in Stratasys printers all offer customers greater choice.  

“We are now seeing engineering and product design driving innovation on a daily basis,” Laser Lines said. 

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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.


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