3D printing is a niche that’s developing very fast, and advances are typical of this process. Interesting novelties include printing with metal, 3D printing and robotics, and increased speed.
Printing with Metal
It can be challenging to print in 3D with metal. The materials used or the printing process itself causes tiny holes to appear in the structure of an item. As a result, finished parts are often defective, rendering a larger number of 3D printing methods unsuitable for industrial manufacturing. Regardless of this, a lot of companies have managed to introduce 3D printing to major industrial applications. For example, GE Additive launched a program called Project A.T.L.A.S., which is aimed at making production of complex, big metal parts possible. Siemens created gas turbine blades from a nickel-based alloy.
Speed has been the biggest limitation of 3D printing so far. It can take up to a few days to print a single item. The good news is that better-quality materials are reducing printing time. It’s still not possible to print thousands of items in one day, which is what producers are looking for, but it’s still an advance.
Robotics engineers are able to create complex parts capable of performing different operations from a range of materials using 3D printing. For example, the University of Tokyo created two humanoid robots, which can perform exercises like stretching and press-ups. Scientists used 3D printing to recreate some features of the human skeleton in plastic and metal materials. The robots have imitation tendons, skeletons, a nervous system, and articulated joints. The robots can even sweat because were printed using porous metal.
Of course, this is an advance because it means less work for human beings. We’re looking forward to even more and bigger advances in 3D printing in 2019.