3D printing has come a long way in recent years. While once it may have been seen primarily as a novelty, it is now able to provide genuine and tangible benefits and can save lives as well as benefiting manufacturers and fabricators alike.
However, there is far more to 3D printing than meets the eye, so let’s take a closer look at 4 facts about 3D printing that you (probably) weren’t aware of.
3D printing is not actually a brand new technology
While 3D printing has really come into its own in the last five or six years, the concept actually goes back a fair few decades. The very first patents with regard to 3D printing arose in the early ‘80s, but due to the technology being so rudimentary at the time, the patents were more speculative than anything else. The first patent is thought to be one from 1984, which was registered in France by designer, engineer and inventor Jean-Claude André.
Numerous materials can be used as part of the 3D printing process
While plastics and resins are the most prevalent in the 3D printing arena, there are an array of materials, such as wood, ceramics and metal, that can also be utilised. However, as the available technology advances and processes become cheaper, it is likely that more and more materials will be trialled, and will ultimately become increasingly viable.
3D printing can be used to create organs and tissue
One of the most incredible facts about 3D printing is that it has the capacity to print living tissue. Bioprinting, as it is more frequently known, is able to create particular skin and muscle tissues, and will soon be capable of fully printing bones that can be installed in a body and will be able to last a lifetime. In medicine, 3D printing offers almost limitless possibilities.
3D printing is becoming increasingly common in space
Numerous 3D printing trials have taken place onboard the International Space Station (ISS), and this is largely because if humans are ever to live on the Moon or on Mars, 3D printing will be absolutely essential. The ISS experiments have shown that 3D printing can be effective even with low levels of gravity, and as this technology advances, it will mean that equipment, tools and even entire buildings will be able to be crafted away from Earth.
2021 3D printing trends
The power of personalisation
In 2021, it’s likely that we’ll encounter new ways of optimising and personalising the printing process. Rather than pre-set printing processes to match as wide a variety of applications as possible, we could see a growing number of machines that are tailored to the product that they are used to produce; rather than the product being built according to the constraints of the printer.
At a manufacturing level, this could give more operatives the capability of adjusting processes to their specific product requirements.
The need for speed
After a year in which many sectors have been jolted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever that products are made with the greatest urgency when required. The medical sector is the most obvious example, but there are other industries with the requirement, too.
For additive manufacturing, there is now the potential to take advantage of the demand for digitised processes which take a fraction of time compared to other forms of manufacturing. It’s likely that the industry will cash in on this new ‘need for speed’.
A new era of investment?
Due to the factors projected above, we might also see a new wave of investment into 3D printing, from hardware to digital products and materials. Assimilating additive manufacturing into a business requires funding, but also offers the incentive of significant returns, thanks to the more efficient way in which a product can be made. In 2021, 3D printing might have no shortage of options when it comes to capital.