Alex, the car engine parts made with AM surprised me, too. This is an indication of the sea-change that seems to be hitting AM. And I think custom medical devices, as RNDDUDE's commented, are also going to be a big deal. In fact, in terms of total volumes of products/parts made, I suspect these could exceed the automotive and aerospace objects per year, at least in the near term.
I definately agree with your last paragraph that extolls the huge potential of this technology for one-off custom medical devices. Customizing implants to the patients anatomy vs. adapting standard devices to the patient could be really a step forward. Also there is the reality that high-end medical products seem to be relatively free from cost restraint considerations for the time being.
Beth, I think materials are one of two major differences. The second is the process. The processes of all these higher-end low-volume parts and castings are different types of laser sintering or fused deposition modeling (FDM).
Great point about how this is filling a much-needed market niche. 3D printing and prototyping, as important as it is, is essentially a low volume technology for low-stress parts. When you see an auto engine in the context of additive manufacturing, you know that the rubber is hitting the road, to use a cliche.
This technique when used for medical and dental prosthetics and implants will definitely create better products hitherto not plausible. With the new generation intelligent implants we can really hope for products that will enhance quality of life.
Very thorough overview that sets the stage for how additive technologies are being used across industries. Question or perhaps clarification: It appears the big difference between these technologies outlined in your piece, Ann, and the blaze of low-cost 3D printers we've been writing about lately really boils down to a matter of materials. So if you're trying to produce something in low-volume that is the actual end product, addivitive techniques and these new materials are your go-to technology vs. many of the 3D printers which still use the powder-based materials that are really not functional, just well suited for prototyping purposes. Is that a fair assumption?
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