By Chris Waldo
3D printing is a very interesting form of manufacturing technology in my opinion, and it gives a lot of people the opportunity to do some pretty interesting stuff. There are people using this manufacturing technology to create some pretty interesting pieces, and there are people using 3D printing to do some pretty powerful stuff. However, there are also some scary applications that may come about through the use of this manufacturing process.
3D printing can be scary in some aspects, but it is also a truly phenomenal technology. What can this stuff do? What is so interesting and useful about 3D printing? Well, to answer that question - let's cover some of the current applications. 3D printing has been there to serve for quite a few of the engineering firms across the world. The process of testing product ideas, prototyping, and creating new products - 3D printing has become an almost crucial aspect. Being able to quickly, as in within 1 day, produce a test part is a powerful feat. It is also noteworthy that this form of technology can manufacture things that other types of manufacturing simply cannot. Machining processes have some powerful applications as well, but they simply can't create the kinds of products that 3D printing can. Mold manufacturing is also having a difficult time to compete.
Outside of engineering fields (well, sort of) there are other applications that come into play through 3D printing. One of these powerful applications would be the use of 3D printing within the medical field. What does this manufacturing world do in the medical field? Why is it important there, if at all? Well, there are quite a few applications that are taking place through 3D printing - which machining, mold manufacturing, and other manufacturing processes can't compete with. For example, customized implants such as spinal implants, skull implants, and various prosthetic devices need to be manufactured somehow, right? Well, some methods such as machining are already existing to do that right now. Well, at the same time not all kinds of implants and prosthetic pieces can be made through machining methods. This technology is fantastic for creating pretty much whatever you need. When it comes down to it, 3D printing has the power to create almost any design (with size & price limitations) out of one of a variety of material options. There are materials for certain plastics, ceramics, metals,and other parts. Metal printing, or DMLS is great for the medical field.
There are also other applications for the 3D printing industry to participate in. There are several marketing programs that benefit through 3D printing. By giving a sales representative a comprehensive 3D printed piece that offers everything that a product does, but is scaled down - is great for visuals. Instead of bringing a 150 pound valve to a sales meeting, a sales representative will be able to bring up a piece that is maybe half a pound, or 1-3 pounds. There are quite a few possibilities as to where this technology could go, and it is definitely helping the manufacturing facility.
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