Welcome to our third and final installment of our 3D printing investigation. So far we have covered how 3D printing works and how it is being used in the medical field. Today we will look at other industries and how 3D printing is making big changes in the way we live.
One of the greatest advantages 3D printing can offer is in manufacturing: 3D printers can produce machine prototypes using far less material, and at a greater speed. This also reduces the amount of inventory that companies need to keep on hand, making warehouses more efficient by allowing new parts to be made to order. Manufacturing businesses greatly benefit from this, and certain industries have not wasted any time in reaping the benefits of the rapid progress made possible by 3D printers.
The aerospace industry in particular has used 3D printing to produce impressive results in a short span of time, increasing the speed at which it can move its new inventions forward. CAD files allow engineers to produce parts with more complex designs, thus reducing the weight of the parts and increasing fuel efficiency. EY’s recent report stated that the Airbus A350 XWB had over 1,000 parts printed with a 3D printer. The capability of the 3D printer to cope with additional complexity allows for parts’ functions to be integrated with one another – what used to be five separate moving parts is now one, and the level of performance is either maintained or, in most cases, improved.
The automotive industry has also taken advantage of the benefits of 3D printing. As with the aerospace industry, it’s now far easier to produce complex, lower weight, integrated parts with CAD models. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing states that its 3D printing has reduced lead time by up to 90%, and cost by 60% – a welcome saving for an industry that was dealt a tough blow by the Great Recession in 2008. The speed with which new automotive designs can be produced also helps car companies stay on top of regulations, which are becoming more stringent. For instance, increasing the minimum required miles per gallon and strength of the roof to prevent collapse in the case of a roll-over accident are now legal requirements.
Construction has been able to reap the benefits of 3D printing as well. Computer design already has a strong foothold in architecture, so the transition to CAD imaging has been made easier because of this. Much of this has to do with the advent of building information modeling (BIM). Apis Cor, whose tagline is (appropriately) “We print buildings”, has reduced the cost of constructing a building by 40% using 3D printing. Not only this, but they are able to print a 100 square foot building in under 24 hours, and accomplish this all on site. It may not be the mansion many people hope for, but in areas where housing is prohibitively expensive or living conditions are unsafe, this has the potential to positively impact global poverty.
We end with a lighthearted use of 3D printing: pizza. A Silicon Valley company called BeeHex has developed a way to make and bake a pizza in six minutes using a 3D printer. NASA awarded a grant of $125,000 to BeeHex for the practical application of giving astronauts better food during long missions, thinking ahead to Mars missions. Don’t worry, they’ve since adapted their invention for the commercial market after raising $1 million in 2017, according to TechCrunch. The applications of 3D printed food vary, from printing a pizza for a child in the shape of their favorite cartoon character to home 3D food printers that could produce on-the-spot food to the exact specifications of the consumer. Alphabet soup and Lucky Charms are about to have a big competitor in the fun-food world.
The world of 3D printing holds a wealth of possibility. Thank you for joining us while we explored these possibilities, and keep watching this space for continued developments.