At the beginning of the 3D printing “revolution”, many people were skeptical about the true potential of technology, believing that plastic would be the only material used. However, due to strong competition, the integration of new materials is one of the most developed and researched fields in the 3D printing industry.
Metal printing has been a major success, and numerous industries, from automotive to aerospace or manufacturing, have rushed to invest and benefit from this technology. Thus, they can create prototypes and models in a much faster and cheaper way, but they can also assemble more efficiently and minimize the weight of the parts used.
There are currently several materials developed for 3D printing such as glass, ceramics, polymers, alloys, resins or even food.
Medical and pharmaceutical industry
Although it is not currently widely adopted in this sector, 3D printing has huge potential in the development of the medical industry. The manufacture of medicines using this technology has become more and more common, being a much more efficient, cheap and fast way.
Smaller scale production is now possible thanks to 3D printing, medicine can be made in a personalized way, exactly according to the doctors’ requirements. Thus, patients can receive the treatment they need much faster and at a lower price, as the cost of distribution and transportation are eliminated.
It is still too early for large-scale adoption, but with further research, the pharmaceutical industry can be supported in the optimization process, production costs can be reduced and patients can be supported with personalized treatments.
3D printing is a very useful way of prototyping, which significantly reduces the design and delivery time of new car models. This industry has been using this technology for decades, optimizing workflow and production. The ability to create custom tools and devices, especially when it comes to luxury cars, lowers costs and simplifies the increasingly complex assembly process.
With a 3D printer inside the factory, manufacturers can significantly reduce delivery time, but also optimize the production process, so assembly becomes more efficient and profitable.
The weight of the parts is one of the problems that the aerospace industry faces when it comes to high costs. 3D printing allows to create parts with a smaller volume of components, which leads to parts that are generally lighter, thus positively affecting emissions, fuel consumption, speed and payload, which is an advantage for the environment.
Aid for humanitarian purposes
3D printing has a huge advantage in manufacturing industries, such as automotive or aerospace, but also in the medical industry, but this technology has the potential to be very helpful in solving humanitarian problems.
As mentioned above, several printable materials have been developed over time. The food industry is being intensively researched to address the issue of food in humanitarian crises. Nutrient cartridges, made up of powder and oils, are being investigated as a potential solution.
As time goes by, the cost of production will decrease and these materials can be very helpful, as transportation will no longer be needed in the affected areas and local production will be possible.
At the same time, shelter and house 3D printing is already possible, being a great help for those affected by economic or social instability. Given the technological progress in hardware, software and materials, we can conclude that 3D printing is about to reach maturity. Given the points presented and the increase in the adoption rate, we can conclude that 3D printing technology is heading towards a bright future.