Additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing is moving beyond prototyping and reforming production frameworks at varied scales in the manufacturing sectors. It has shortened the product development cycle and enabled rapid manufacturing of mass-produced products.
According to the Wohler’s report, AM industry (considering all AM products and services worldwide) grew at 25.9% CAGR to $5.165 billion in 2015. The firm revealed the market is slated to grow at a CAGR of 13.7% and will reach $3.471.9 million by 2017. The desktop 3D printer segments and metal AM will particularly experience a major boost.
According to Lux Research, the growth of 3D printing will be directly proportional to the growth of industries such as aerospace, consumer products, medical, automotive, paleontology, forensic pathology, architecture, and electronics. The research states this market is likely to reach $12 billion till 2025!
Additive manufacturing is transforming diverse industries
AM technology is gathering pace and is amounting to a 3rd industrial revolution. With this technology, it is possible to create parts in geometries, which are not likely, using conventional manufacturing methods. Also, products that could not be made by machining (subtracting) or forming (shaping) can be manufactured with AM.
Aerospace firms are turning to AM technology to alleviate the costs of prototypes and components. Aircraft components made using AM are lightweight and reduce aircraft weight. For example, aircraft landing gear is manufactured using titanium layers rather than using an entire titanium block. This help to reduce material waste as well as costs.
AM is also transforming the medical sector. Prostheses, surgical tools, catheters, syringes and infusion bags are increasingly made from resins using this technology. What’s more, with AM it is now possible to replicate dental crowns, knee or hip and create biocompatible pieces to reconstruct the injured sections (Brooke Rose, 2016).
Materials for producing additive manufactured parts
Materials used in the manufacture of AM parts are relatively diverse. The chemical and mechanical properties of the desired finished products determine which materials (plastic, metal or composite powders) should be used in their making. For example, industrial grade plastics is used to manufacture components with mechanical properties like that of nylon.
Likewise, materials such as carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic can be used to enhance strength. Certain types of polymers help impart flexibility while aluminum-reinforced plastic is used to improve thermal conductivity (Roberts Sue, 2015).
While AM allows products to be made economically with lower labor and in quick succession, this market is wholly based on technical and business scores. Also, advances in process control and material characterization will hold the key for future growth.
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