Imagine you driving your car on the interstate with your family when you hear your car sputter and steam starts to come out. You open the hood and you notice a broken hose. You are in the middle of nowhere and the next car parts store is miles away from your location. So, what do you do? Easy, you just pull out your 3D printer, look for the hose design on the web and bam!, print yourself a new hose.
Sounds like a bright future for 3D printing? This future is oriented towards creating pieces that are useful at the moment. It is to become part of the “I want it now” culture. In fact, 3D printing is already used to print important manufacture pieces.
Some airlines are starting to invest money in the research to manufacturing aircraft parts through 3D printing. For instance, Singapore Airlines Engineering Company recently signed a deal with Stratasys to create an additive facility for the printing of aircraft parts. Even though the company will not be printing engine parts at first, they will be implementing it to interior designs things, like trays o window shades.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that 3D printing may have for us in the not-so-far future. How about being able to print a new dish every time your toddler breaks one?
We will have corporations placing their bets on the development of new materials for printing. So vendors will put their emphasis on understanding the chemistry behind materials to turn them into printing material. We will get the development of materials that resemble human tissue for instance, which would be a great breakthrough since parts could be made on demand as patients arrive at the hospital.
Speaking of Materials: Metal
If you think not too hard about it, you might see why printing metal parts could be a challenge. Well, there are metal 3D printers, but the process requires so much work that it cannot be placed on the market as the price would be too high. Expect more studies on how to lower costs of metal printing.
Companies such as Desktop Metal and Markforged deposit metal with a substrate material, that leaves the metal, making it solidify, once the structure has been built and is ready to release. Until now, most metal printing devices are too expensive. The future holds a tremendous lowering of these costs.
New Design Tools
Additive manufacturers will be demanding more design tools. In simple terms, they will be requiring a digital model of a certain tool, add new features to it, and get it printed. So, not only will institutions be able to create 3D-printed designs when needed without having to go buy it or get it online and wait for 2-3 days for it to arrive.
With 3D printing, tools with new designs will be created, opening the door for the invention of new products.
Sounds a bit contradictive. How can something be produced in mass and get customized? For example, whenever dentists need a model of a patient’s teeth, they insert that unbearable goo that later solidifies inside your mouth. New 3D printing technology will make it possible for doctors to skip that step, get a digital scan of the patient, and use clay to reproduce what is needed.
There is no doubt that 3D printing will be a game changer for everyone. But this is the 21st century, where we seem to be getting used to advance technology too soon.