Although 3D additive manufacturing processes often get noticed, it's the materials that create the prototype, the model, or the end-product component. It's the new materials, not new processes, that have made it possible recently to produce low volumes of high-quality, complex models, parts, and complete products.
These products are meeting the rigorous requirements of aerospace, military, automotive, and medical applications. Completely functional dental implants and surgical guides, skull models, and models of hands and feet containing visible bone structures are some of the objects being made with extremely strong, easy-to-model, or biocompatible materials.
Some of these materials are also used in more exotic applications. Laser-sintered titanium can serve as the basis of medical implants or automotive parts. It can even quench the fashion industry's insatiable thirst for weird and unlikely looks in jewelry and shoes. Other 3D materials can help create anything from robot components and unmanned aerial vehicles to prototypes for sneaker soles, motocross helmets, and skateboard decks.
Click the image below to start a slideshow highlighting some of the newest innovations in 3D materials.
3D printing with ultra-clear materials can be used to make highly accurate medical models
that show detailed bone structures.
ChasChas, additive manufacturing is the overall term to describe this technology cluster. 3D printing refers to the use of laser-printer-like lower-end machines and what they do. OTOH, I agree with you, neither one of them really captures the amazing stuff these materials and machines can do.
Jim, you accurately picked up on my frustration. But it's at unclear, inaccurate communication, not at the idea that someone is opposing my vision--I don't have a vision to oppose where AM/3D is concerned. I don't expect AM to entirely take over other forms of manufacturing. Not sure how anyone could read that in to the article or to my comments. And I was surprised at the negative tone in some of those responses, hence my "if we don't start we won't get there" comment. I hope that's all now clear.
Beth, I'm sensing a hint of exasperation in your reply and for that I sincerely apologize. It might seem like Dave & I are opposing your vision, but I certainly am not – I applaud it and your sense of hope. I definitely can imagine a day when AM is routinely producing parts in volume, but of course the individual part cycle time will have to increase dramatically. (currently hours for AM –vs- seconds for molding) But to your hopeful point, "if we don't start we won't ever get there, and Rome wasn't built in a day. ". I share your hope for the future.
Dave, I'm only surprised at the statements that the new tech won't take over all of the old tech. Of course! That seems quite obvious to me. None of the trends I've been reporting on, in any of the areas I mentioned, claim to be able to completely replace all of any existing technology. Not even composites. So that's why I've been surprised to see comments from several people that are written as if those claims have been made. (Even if they had been made, they wouldn't enter my article.)
That said, you may have heard such claims elsewhere. If so, I suspect people making them have been affected by the semiconductor-ization of technology in general. This is not a real phenomenon, but a semi-washing, or perhaps better, a techno-washing, if you will, that seems to assume Moore's "Law" is applicable to anything except DRAM memory. (Which it's not, really, although in general semi-based technologies are known for such massive replacements.) This misperception then leads people to believe that all kinds of non-semi-based, non-electronics technologies will behave like semi-based and electronics techs and the latest tech will completely replace the previous one. This is, of course, just silly.
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A quick look into the merger of two powerhouse 3D printing OEMs and the new leader in rapid prototyping solutions, Stratasys. The industrial revolution is now led by 3D printing and engineers are given the opportunity to fully maximize their design capabilities, reduce their time-to-market and functionally test prototypes cheaper, faster and easier. Bruce Bradshaw, Director of Marketing in North America, will explore the large product offering and variety of materials that will help CAD designers articulate their product design with actual, physical prototypes. This broadcast will dive deep into technical information including application specific stories from real world customers and their experiences with 3D printing. 3D Printing is