3-D Printing Today

September 6, 2013 in Daily Bulletin

3-D printing is often talked about as the future of manufacturing. What people don’t seem to realize is that 3-D printing is being used to make products today. The Economist posted a broad article looking at the industry, and its current applications:

  • 3-D printing is useful in the medical field as each patient is different and so mass produced items don’t work as well as items built specifically for individuals. Individualized hearing aid shells and braces are now built based on scans of a patient’s face.
  • The aerospace industry is also using 3-D printing since the volume of goods required is too small to be suitable for mass production. China’s taikonauts (Chinese astronauts) sit in chairs specifically designed and printed to fit their body shape.
  • Customized spare parts for airplanes are also printed – especially for older planes for which parts may no longer be available.
  • The average F-18, for example, has 90 3-D printed parts even though the planes have been around for twenty years – well before the rise of 3-D printing.
  • The high cost of the materials or ‘ink’ used by 3-D printers is partly what’s holding 3-D printing back. The cost is mostly a result of 3-D printer makers requiring that their own ink be used with their printers – and as with normal printers, a hefty markup is charged on the ink.

The full article is a much more expansive look at the current and future state of the 3-D printing industry. It talks about how workers and China don’t really have much reason to fear 3-D printing, the companies that might dominate the future, and a senior executive that might have to reverse his name. Read it here.

Source: The Economist