In 2016, there are more applications of 3D printing than ever. 3D printing is a process by which three dimensional objects can be created from a digital model through a computer programme. The object is built up layer by layer of the material, and is developed from a CAD sketch. The process is also known as additive manufacturing. The technology was first developed in the 1980s in Japan by Hideo Kodama. Today, 3D printing is being used in almost all industries for better visualisation and improvement of products. Following are a few major applications of 3D printing.
The medical industry has made great strides with the help of 3D printing, and indeed it was one of the first sectors that adopted this technique to make improvements. One of the ways in which this process is used is in the creation of personalised dental crowns through a model. It can be used to make prosthetic that fits in to any person perfectly. Medical interns also use this technology to practice surgery on 3D models, which gives them a better exposure. Currently, technology is being developed for using bone, tissue, and skins to build human organs, which can be a major breakthrough in medicine.
The use of 3D printing in architecture can be easily imagined. Designs of buildings can be built on the computer and then created into a model, which is used as a prototype for the actual construction and design. Architectural firms are seeking to develop technology through which entire buildings can be designed and built directly with 3D printing.
Like with architecture, the aeronautics industry uses 3D printing to create prototype models for testing. 3D printing allows the complex shapes necessary for modeling aeronautical devices and planes. One of the reasons this is so extensively used in aeronautics is because it is time saving and cost effective, thus making it more realistic to develop new aircrafts that can be ditched if they don’t prove to be good enough.
The automotive industry, like the aeronautical industry, develops prototypes and models for testing before commercialising the model. The use of additive manufacturing means that customers can now personalise their own car designs and place an order. One of the things that companies manufacturing vehicles are looking at is to create actual spare parts through 3D modelling for replacement, instead of keeping stock.
Even industries that are not as important for overall human progress, such as the fashion and jewellery industries, uses additive manufacturing. Shoes, bags, and other accessories can now be made to order through this technology. It has also given a boost to the creativity of fashion designers. There is now the possibility of blending different fabrics together to create new fabrics. Custom-made clothing might be the next big thing in the textile industry after the mass production of clothes made good clothes cheaper and more accessible to everyone a century ago.
Jewellery design is an intricate art. It took a long time for jewellers to mould or carve an intricate design, and there was always the risk of mistakes, leading to enormous wastage. But with the use of additive manufacturing, producing jewellery according to complicated designs has become easier and completely wastage-free. 3D printing is also used for electroplating, engraving, and many other activities in this industry.
3D printing is an important technology for the electronics sector. Apart from the usual prototypes used in electronics, like in most other industries, additive manufacturing also allows the manufacturing of mechanical parts and electronic casings good quality. With this technique, it also becomes possible to integrate the tiny chips in the overall design at an earlier stage, leading to sleeker and better designed products.
Another interesting scope of this type of application is that it allows visualising artifacts unearthed through excavations on ancient sites. Even if only minor parts of any object are found, additive manufacturing allows creating models, thus increasing our knowledge about ancient cultures. 3D printing can also be used to understand antique objects and help in their restoration.
As we have seen, there are many applications of 3D printing, and this technology is here to stay.