3D printing’s first impact was in the prototype sector of the manufacturing process. 3D printing will not replace traditional (“subtractive”) manufacturing methods, but rather 3D printing technology will be combined with pre-existing machines. There are currently five machines that are most likely going to be the future of 3D printer combinations.
Combine Subtractive and Additive
Subtractive and additive machines each offer ways of creating certain forms or shapes that the other process cannot create. The Lasertec 65 3D combines both additive and subtractive processes with a 5-axis milling machine (subtractive) and laser deposition welding (additive). As it says on the website: “The flexible change between laser and milling operation allows the direct milling machining of sections which are not reachable anymore at the finished part.” However, this machine can only work with metal and cost $500,00 a machine. I expect, in five to ten years, most 3D printers will have both subtractive and additive capability in one hybrid machine for most materials.
Combine Additive and Scanning
The other hybrid machine that will become more predominant in the next five to ten years will be like the Zeus 3D printer, which combines 3D printer and the 3D scanner into one machine. What made this combination possible is the existence of a similar component used in both cases, the platform. The paper fax, scanner, copier, and printer all shared the glass bed which allowed them to be combined into the modern printer. The best way to get 3D printers introduced into another industries would be to look sideways to find other applications or tools that share a component with 3D printers to better assist a current need or possibly create a new process.
Combine Conductive and Non-Conductive Materials
There are going to more and better 3D electronics printer in the next 10 to 20 years. Voxel8 ability to print highly conductive ink with printing PLA will aid the designer by getting rid of the “limitation of planar PCBs” and open up the possibility of circuitry in three dimensions. Three dimensional circuits and embedding circuits will be another area largely influenced by new 3D printing technology. This is actually an innovation by combination example, because it combines circuitry and 3D printing to give rise to a new way of making things which was not possible before.
Very High Speed Printing
CLIP or Continuous Liquid Interface Production is the future of SLA machines. The process was developed by the company carbon3D, who can print an object that would take an ordinary SLA printer “11 hours to complete and this specialized process can do it in 6 and half minutes.”
PhotonFluid has developed Kast, a SLA printer that matches the specs as the Carbon3D printer and set to launch it on Kickstarter this June. There are a few videos showing it work in this article.
HP has been saying that their 3D printer, that will be available some time in 2016, will be 10X faster than current technologies. Their Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer will be able to use a “print bar that produces over 350 drops per second at 21 microns, which, according to HP, is able to print 1,000 working gears in 3 hours.” It will be interesting to see what the HP printer will actually fulfill.
About the Author
Max Murphy is Mechanical Engineering student in his Junior year at California Baptist University. He is interested in the implications of 3D printing or positive manufacturing for mechanical design. He is currently an intern at Soundfit, one of the companies that is part of the Bay Area Advanced Manufacturing Hub (BAAM), where he is gaining hands on experience with a 3D printer and scanner and an intern at Neodyne Biosciences working with the R&D and Q&A departments.