Additive manufacturing (trade name: “3D printing” or “rapid prototyping”) is a process that transforms a physical object from a digital design. It was undoubtedly an industry technological improvement that transformed several analogic processes into a vast digital revolution during the last few decades. Additive manufacturing provides new design possibilities, including the opportunity to combine many production components, avoiding material waste and tooling costs. Multiples business areas like IT, communications, architecture, and engineering have experienced that change, bringing versatility and efficiency to a lot of manufacturing operations.
How does AM work?
Through the conventional process, the target product is shaped by removing parts of its raw material. By the Additive Manufacturing, it is exactly the opposite. Thousands of “microlayers” of the feedstocks are combined to obtain the desired product. There is an array of materials that is suitable to use on the 3D printer, such as thermoplastics, ceramics, metals, and biochemicals. The cartridge is loaded with the appropriate ones.
The print fuses the layers one at the time until the process is complete. The additive manufacturing process involves using a computer and a 3D modeling software (Computer-Aided Design or CAD), which transmits messages to the printer. Also, it requires machine equipment and the layering material. Therefore, the AM process is based on three essential steps:
Digital design: For a 3D printer to develop an object, it must have been created in some computer software. This is necessary to define all specifications and associate them with the business value proposition.
Layer-by-layer printing: After the software creates the project, it is time to divide it into layers. This part is also necessary because 3D printers deposit material one layer at a time. Within a new program, known as a slicer, parameters are defined, and the final file is finalized.
3D printing: Last but not least, the file is sent to the printer that will start producing the part. Rely on the Complexity and size of the object, the process can take a few hours or even days.
Additive Manufacturing Materials
Thermoplastics: One of the most common polymers of the Additive Manufacturing process is the Thermoplastics. It is often used to build reinforcement structures for a short period. Example: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), polylactic acid (PLA), polycarbonate (PC), and soluble polyvinyl alcohol (PVA).
Metals: In general, several metals can be used like precious metals such as gold, platinum, silver, or rustless steel.
Ceramics: Many ceramics are used in the manufacture of additives, such as high-alumina porcelain, tricalcium phosphate, and zirconia. Also, glass products are created by arranging this material with different types of adhesives.
Biochemicals: Healthcare área is an example of Biochemical applications. The use of hardened materials from silicon, calcium phosphate, and zinc can promote bone growth or restoration. Furthermore, medical manufacturing companies use this kind of material to create on-demand 3D printed surgical implants for patients injured with bone cancer and other diseases.
Glass: In the powder condition, being possible to be layered as required, glass can be used in Additive Manufacturing processes. An adhesive bond is required as the merge section of the design, and it requires baking before use.
Chocolate: You didn’t read wrong. The most and recent entrant to this market is chocolate, with baking and cooking process set to be transformed by this technology. With an increasingly competitive market, molecular gastronomy heats up with the ability to create ever more complex shapes and designs.
Pizza: Last year NASA funded a project to build a food 3D printer for astronauts – and now the prototype can 3D print an entire pizza! The cartridges are loaded with all the necessary ingredients, and the robot’s nozzle begins layering liquefied dough, followed by sauce, toppings, and melted cheese.
Addictive Manufacturing Equipment
As previously said, the additive manufacturing process requires some gears as a 3D Modeling software (CAD). Computer-aided design (CAD) is a digital technology that creates either two-dimensional or three-dimensional diagrams, which can be observed from any point of view, even from the inside looking out.
CAD can assist in the manufacturing process by associating all issues involving the complexity of a given material (such as strategies, tolerances, and measurements) with the specific conventions for the merchandise in question. There are CAD solutions for all of the major computer platforms, including Windows, Linux, Unix, and Mac pc OS X.
Additive Manufacturing Methods
There are plenty of technologies involving 3D printing, and each of them serves specific objectives. However, some of them have more market relevance. Learn about each one below:
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM): a method that uses polymer filaments as raw material.
Stereolithography (SLA): a method that solidifies liquid resins through ultraviolet light.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS): a method that produces 3D objects from granulated materials of ceramics, plastics, and metals.
Multi-jet Modeling (MJM): it has a similar concept as an inkjet with a head, capable of alternating back and forth, on the 3 dimensions (x, y, z). It combines numbers of small jets to implement a layer of thermopolymer material, layer-by-layer.
3DP: This involves developing a model in a powder-filled container of some material based on plaster or starch. The printer’s injection needles apply a small amount of material to form a layer. After application, a new layer of powder is swept over the previous layer with the application of more binder. The process is reproduced until the model is complete. Since the model is supported by loose powder, there is no need for support. Also, this is the only process created in color.
Additive Manufacturing – Advantages & Perspectives
For most companies, it can be very advantageous to exchange old machines for 3D printers. Some of the most attractive benefits are:
Economy: this equipament can produce parts in small quantities, decreasing the unit cost;
Efficiency: production of the physical model by the digital design enables rapid prototyping;
Low Complexity: allows the easy creation of parts with complex parametric arrangement;
Versatility: the products are fully customizable according to needs;
Sustainability: the reduced use of material generates less waste and uses low electricity;
In fact, with all these advantages, sales of 3D printers only grow worldwide. In 2016, more than 275,000 3D printers were sold, according to Wohler’s annual report.
Additive Manufacturing History
Many people think this technology is a recent invention. However, Additive manufacturing has been around for over 30 years! American Charles Hull invented the first 3D Printing technology (SLA-250). He developed the SLA printing technology in 1984.
One year after the SLA-250 was made available on the market in 1989, its main competitor was launched. Created by Scott Scrump, 3D Modeler used the Fusion Deposition Modeling system (FDM).
Both reached the market, costing over US$ 100,000, which made it difficult for the industry to adopt these products and initially limited the technology to large centers and large companies. The technology has helped several sectors such as automotive, architecture, engineering, design, and others to reduce operating costs in product development substantially.
In 2012, AM technologies started to become popular, with the advent of 3D desktop printers.
Addictive Manufacturing Market – An Overview
The additive manufacturing market is growing every day, and its financial results over time reveal to be a revolutionary market. In 2017, it generated an amount of US$6 billion, and it has a projection to increase at a compound annual rate of 30,2%, reaching a total market size of US$22 billion by 2022.
Additive Manufacturing Applications
This innovation occurs in several areas today. However, in particular, we can list these key areas that use Additive Manufacturing frequently:
Product Development: This application enables a process called “rapid prototyping” which objective is to develop and test models more quickly and at a lower cost. It allows you to perform more iterations of the project and arrive at better products. This prototyping process still avoids errors and unnecessary expenses and also accelerates the development of new products.
Manufacturing Tools: The development of tools using additive manufacturing brings more autonomy to industries, as they no longer depend on third-party suppliers. Besides, it ensures lower costs and reduces lead time.
End-use parts: Additive manufacturing is used to manufacture a low volume of end-use parts. It offers flexibility, allowing companies to produce small quantities, avoiding risks involved in making a large batch, or enables them to create more innovative designs.
Didactics: The application of additive manufacturing for teaching purposes has been growing a lot with the popularization of technology. Universities and schools use 3D printed articles to illustrate concepts in a more didactic and engaging way. Likewise, many doctors benefit from 3D printed representations of human anatomy, analyzing complex scenarios, and explain them to patients. Architects also use 3D low-cost models to display architectural projects to clients in an impactful way.
Additive Manufacturing labor-areas
With the popularization of desktop 3D printers, the use of additive manufacturing in various industries is on the rise. Meet some of the sectors that most use technology and some success situations:
Automotive Industries: Using the 3D printer to build manufacturing tools, Ford creates an engine manifold prototype with a saving of 99,4%. According to the company, developing and creating a prototype for an engine manifold with traditional manufacturing spends up to four months and cost around half a million dollars.
Aerospace Industries: Maintaining sophisticated and customized aircraft can be a considerable challenge. There are many unusual parts and systems to work with. The Royal Netherlands Air Force seize this opportunity. AM technology offered an affordable way to create tools that fit specific applications in hours. Instead of outsourcing, they have printed several pieces in the past two years, saving time and money.
Plastic Industries: 3D printing allows efficient delivery of plastic parts in low quantities, which means that polymers can replace metal for many machine replacement parts. 3D printers are capable of delivering polymer parts in materials resistant to impact, high temperatures, abrasion, among other characteristics (such as nylon, polypropylene, polycarbonate), which can even replace the metal.
Foundry industries: Patterns made by a 3D FDM printer, when used in conjunction with the micro casting process, can produce large metal parts at meager cost, with specifications that would not be possible using traditional manufacturing techniques. 3D printing is now used frequently in conjunction with a variety of lost wax micro casting applications to produce parts from molten materials.
Shoe Industry: The shoe industry is always changing. There is a constant desire to launch original ideas, and designers are pushing the boundaries of shoe art, thanks to 3D printing. With the help of 3D printers, it is likely to produce realistic functional prototypes in a few hours, ready to be tested before production begins. The possibility of evaluating and modifying the design several times, even on the same day, represents a huge advantage. 3D printed forms, surfaces, and models, combining several materials with different densities, allow a considerable increase in production efficiency. And we’re not just talking about prototypes. The trend is also to produce accessories and final pieces until the future realization of the shoe wholly printed in 3D.
Home-appliance Industry: Electrolux is conducting a feasibility study for replacement parts on-demand made on a 3D printer. It has partnered with a technological start-up in Singapore. The goal is to reduce inventory costs and delivery times, providing accuracy and efficiency. The 3D printer is a powerful ally because it can manufacture more replacement parts with a shorter time. Nowadays, it is usual practice for home appliance manufacturers to keep stock of spare parts, even after the production of the appliance has ended. This results in a happy customer when maintenance and repair are required on the broken washing machine that is no longer manufactured. The parts kept in inventories, generate labor and maintenance costs. Besides, some parts accumulate dust in the stock until they are dispatched and costs can increase if the parts cannot be supplied through mass production methods.
Architecture: Architectural design is the development of projects related to architecture, through methodologies for the elaboration of elements such as flat and spatial systems. From the creation of these projects, the architect can visualize the guidelines and bring his ideas to life. What differs the degree of quality of an architectural design project are the tools used in its creation process. Additive manufacturing tools, for example, enhance the success of designers and architects in the elaboration of their projects.
Medical and Pharmaceutical Industry: The technology continues to grow exponentially, reaching several areas, and new features appear all the time, such as the benefits of medicine in 3D printing, challenging what seemed impossible until recently! The use of AM technology develops a lot of incredible solutions, such as:
- Blood vessel tissue: The researchers used a 3D bioprinter to create a model of agarose fiber (a molecule derived from sugar) to serve as a template for blood vessels.
- Low-cost protheses: Prostheses are not new in medicine, but the high cost and low possibility of customization become significant barriers for those who have few resources.
- Bone restoration: Artificial bones are a combination of certain chemicals such as ceramic powder, molding parts, or assemblies into almost any shape.
- Heart valve: Using a printing system with two extruders, it is now possible to print an almost perfect combination to simulate the functionalities of a heart valve!
- Cranium Repair: An American man had 75% of his skull replaced with a 3D printer prosthesis.
- Organs: Still in the testing phase, it is possible that within a decade, this practice will no longer be a dream and become a reality, reaching the market to transform the lives of many people.
- Visual arts: Netflix’s hit series “Stranger Things” also featured the use of 3D printing technology for its production. One of the most horrible villains in the series, the monster “Demogorgon” was created using a 3D printer by the SLA method. It was the first time that the digital design team printed a project internally, reducing costs.
3D Printing against COVID-19
To fight against the CoronaVirus, the 3D community also has its alternatives to contribute to the safety and health of people. In Brazil, the SOS 3D COVID-19 platform was developed to raise funds for the production of protective masks for health professionals in several hospitals. The project raised financial donations to purchase materials for printing the masks. These masks are mainly distributed to the local, state, and federal hospitals. More than R $ 46,500 have been calculated, and more than 3,600 masks have been produced to protect health professionals.
Another successful case was the Higia Project developed by a group of women (Women in 3D Printing Brazil) who work with 3D printers as well as designers, researchers, and enthusiasts. A protecting mask project was also created to meet the demands of health professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil. In this project, institutions can request protective equipment, while volunteers across Brazil can use their 3D printers to fulfill orders.
Get it started
If you want to work with the AM technology or realized that you could improve some manufacturing operation in your company or optimize a current analogic process, here some suggestions:
- Read and study books and informative articles that interact with your unique (or sought) industry, leadership, and new tech and software tools. Then think how those ideas will impact your current engineering methods and adjust proportionately to stay fresh and competitive.
- Stay informed of design trends and consumer needs in CAD. Standardize your design workflow so that you can adjust on the fly and stay adaptable to accommodate real-time needs. Always make sure you’re using the latest version of SolidFace CAD software.
Additive Manufacturing & SolidFace Technologies
Do you like what you read so far? Have you ever heard about SolidFace?
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As previously said, one of the essential tools that you need to apply additive manufacturing in your company ou personal operations, besides a computer, is a 3D Modeling Software (or CAD, if you prefer).
The SolidFace 3D helps you in the Additive manufacturing process.
You can start a drawing in just a matter of seconds while maintaining the opportunity to add and edit footnotes within the drawing. Detailing the framework is especially beneficial if you need to make short edits to drawings of large assemblies or drawings with various sheets, configurations, or resource-intensive sights.
SolidFace 3D builder module software empowers you to bring any drawing up quickly without bringing up all of the 3D models in the environment. It’s like you’re observing a JPEG picture and BOOM. It arises merely like that, and you can begin working right away.
We produced a much more flexible way of designing large assemblies by enabling you to edit your modeling. Just to review, the SolidFace 3D builder is the fastest way to present, look, measure, and now publish your assembly inside Solidface. Do it without needing to do upfront work, such as create configurations or use various other techniques. You can use your design without needing to bring up all of the complex component information; it introduces just the info would have to be able to view, measure, and edit the assembly-making it very fast.
SolidFace 3D Advantages
First of all, you can download it for free!
Also, it contains many features for you to enjoy, such as:
- Free tutorials
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- Complete 3D Part & Assembly Modeling
- 2D/3D Parametric capabilities
- Bill of materials & much more
Connecting creative people, making it fun
One of the foremost goals with this 3D builder was to be fun for all ages, from engineering students to experienced professionals. So, our team desired to share our passion and energy for SolidFace along with our community. Our objective is to build a creative and unified space to learn and enjoy. We know many companies have difficulty in promoting communication and community sense.
We have aim to create a grouped community on the platform for several users to join, allowing collaboration between regions. Everyone will be able to start using it as a way to connect and communicate.