A metal laser sintering system may be coming soon to a dental office near you. Dental applications for rapid manufacturing equipment are exploding. Up to 500 bridges and crowns can be manufactured in a day in a single build on an EOS direct metal laser sintering system. EOS expects to ship 20 machines for dental applications in the next 18 months. So far, Europe is ahead in implementing the technology, with about 25 installed machines and only three in the United States. The metal used is a cobalt chrome alloy.
Dental implants traditionally have been made out of metal through a time-consuming casting process. A technician can produce about 20 dental frames per day. In the new approach, a dental technician can concentrate on post-processing the metal structure and its aesthetic upgrade: ceramic veneering.
The technology will also come into play for other types of implants, Martin Bullemer, the EOS account specialist for medical, told me today in a walk through the EOS stand at Rapid 2009 in Schaumburg, IL. The best fit will be for custom implants for spines. Cobalt chrome is widely used for knee and hip replacements, but they are mass-produced stock sizes.
As the 3D printing and overall additive manufacturing ecosystem grows, standards and guidelines from standards bodies and government organizations are increasing. Multiple players with multiple needs are also driving the role of 3DP and AM as enabling technologies for distributed manufacturing.
A growing though not-so-obvious role for 3D printing, 4D printing, and overall additive manufacturing is their use in fabricating new materials and enabling new or improved manufacturing and assembly processes. Individual engineers, OEMs, university labs, and others are reinventing the technology to suit their own needs.
For vehicles to meet the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, three things must happen: customers must look beyond the data sheet and engage materials supplier earlier, and new integrated multi-materials are needed to make step-change improvements.
3D printing, 4D printing, and various types of additive manufacturing (AM) will get even bigger in 2015. We're not talking about consumer use, which gets most of the attention, but processes and technologies that will affect how design engineers design products and how manufacturing engineers make them. For now, the biggest industries are still aerospace and medical, while automotive and architecture continue to grow.
More and more -- that's what we'll see from plastics and composites in 2015, more types of plastics and more ways they can be used. Two of the fastest-growing uses will be automotive parts, plus medical implants and devices. New types of plastics will include biodegradable materials, plastics that can be easily recycled, and some that do both.
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