3D printing will revolutionise manufacturing and see product costs FALL in major industries, researchers have claimed.
Experts named three key sectors set to benefit from the additive print process – motoring, aviation, electronics and health care.
The lower costs and improved efficiency are likely to result in prices falling for the consumer, according to industry experts.
It could mean cheaper cars, electronics, air travel and health products for the public.
SPI Lasesr, one of the industry’s main providers of parts for 3D printers, said products made by additive printing will be stronger – with less waste from the process.
A spokesman said: ‘One of the key advantages of 3D printing is that it makes it possible to create a product from scratch in just a few hours.
‘Designers and developers simply create their product onscreen and the 3D printer will produce an accurate, physical part. It saves time, minimises costs and has dramatically increased the flexibility of design processes in all industries.’
‘By creating electronics products with 3D printing, companies are able to save a significant amount of time, money and waste during the manufacturing process.’
Salome Galjaard, a senior designer at engineering consultancy Arup, said that while at first there was a lot of excitement about the possibilities of 3d printing for retail and consumer usage in the home, the main focus is now on the potential it has in manufacturing.
She said: ‘3D printing can have a huge impact on everything from the design process to production, storage, installation and recycling.
‘It could allow engineers to make things we weren’t able to produce before, using amazing optimisation techniques. Storage and transport can become cheaper, as products can be created on site, and even installation could be easier if the function of multiple products is integrated in one.’
Car makers have been using 3d printing for several years to print design prototypes.
But better technology means that they will be able to easily print interior parts such as door handles, dashboards and trims – and even more complex metal parts printed in 3D.
Grainger & Worrall, a specialist automotive parts manufacturer, invested £500,000 in 3D printing as it believes companies like Aston Martin, Bugatti and Mclaren will require small quantities of luxury parts.
Other hard to find out of production parts for classic cars could be made on demand – cutting the cost for restoring old motors.
Edward Grainger, director of Grainger & Worrall, said: ‘Our latest investment will enhance our ability to offer customers, across the automotive, motorsport and aerospace sectors, greater benefits in terms of time, cost and performance on specialist casting projects.’
The other areas set to benefit are parts for aeroplanes, electronics and healthcare.
A spokesman from SPI Lasers said: ‘Whereas in the past many aircraft parts needed many individual components, thanks to 3D printing they can now be printed in one. This was illustrated by GE, which recently printed a fuel injection nozzle in one piece that was previously comprised of twenty different components. Not only did they simplify the manufacturing process by using 3D printing but they also managed to make the fuel injection nozzle five times stronger.
‘Another industry that is at the forefront of additive manufacturing is the electronics industry. The size, shape and materials used to make electronics products make this industry a natural candidate from 3D printing. By creating electronics products with 3D printing, companies are able to save a significant amount of time, money and waste during the manufacturing process.
‘3D printing is currently being used to create medical devices, save theatre time and costs and improve patient care. In this sector, they have had the most success with 3D printing prosthetics and medical devices like hearing aims, which can be made from plastic or pliable materials.’