Additive manufacturing or more commonly known as 3D printing is having a huge impact on nearly every industrial sector. Businesses are excited about its potential but the technology is still in its early stages when it comes to end-use products or components. However, the industries where it is already applicable, its redefining how products are manufactured. Below, we will dive into the three industries where additive manufacturing is having the largest impact today.
When it comes to aerospace manufacturing, strength and weight are both absolutely critical. Components used in aircraft face immense stresses and pressures and must be able to withstand them all. The other aspect, weight is almost just as important. Not only do components need to stand up to the stresses associated with flight, they also need to be light enough so the aircraft can achieve lift. 3D printing has played an important role in mixing both of these attributes as the technology can utilize strong materials while also offering engineers the ability to design structures that were never before possible.
3D printing is now compatible with high strength metals like titanium and steel. These are some of the most important materials in the aerospace industry, praised for their strength and reliability. However, these materials aren’t always the lightest option so aircraft need to burn a lot of fuel to lug these heavy components through the air. But now engineers and manufacturers have the ability to produce high strength components and reduce their weight thanks to additive manufacturing. Engineers can design shapes and structures that are hollow, or require less components due to the way 3D printing works. Building a product or component, layer by layer offers so much flexibility in regard to design which was simply not possible with conventional subtractive manufacturing.
The military isn’t alway able to have access to a manufacturing facility when conducting operations in remote parts of the world. Additive manufacturing has opened new doors and can offer the defense industry a manufacturer on demand. Munitions, drones and even food can be printed right on location.
The Navy is experimenting with having their manufacturing hubs on board their ships. When out at sea and a small but critical component breaks, it can be invaluable to have a 3D printer on board to manufacture a new one almost instantly. The Marines are even conducting tests with 3D printed munitions. Capt. Chris Wood is co-leading the project and says the munitions are safer to handle while also packing a stronger punch to the enemy. Furthermore, these weapons can be tailored to fit the task at hand. Almost every scenario can be planned for, but lugging all that ammunition can be a logistical nightmare. Instead if the U.S. military can set up their own agile manufacturing hub in nearly any environment, the possibilities could be endless.
An innovative startup, Local Motors is taking automotive manufacturing to the next level with 3D printing. Their LM3D is a 3D printed car that is expected to meet all the safety standards of regular production vehicles only it’s unlike anything the world has ever seen. The body will be manufactured using nothing but 3D printing. Using a mix between ABS plastic and Carbon Fiber, the vehicle is lightweight and has the strength required to keep the passengers safe.
This isn’t the only automaker that is working with this incredible technology. Nearly every automotive manufacturer out there is currently using or experimenting with 3D printing in one way or another. Primarily used for non-critical components, these manufacturers can reduce waste to help improve fuel economy.
Additive manufacturing continues to advance and as it does, more industries will find a place for the technology. As of now, these 3 industries are already realizing the benefits 3D printing has to offer. It will be exciting to see how other industries start to incorporate 3D printing into their business. For more information on additive manufacturing, be sure to check the links below.
7 Metals Compatible With Additive Manufacturing
4 Ways 3D Printing Can Improve Your Manufacturing Operation
3D Printing Continues To Soar With General Electric