I agree, the medical applications are likely the killer app for additive methods. I like what is shown here, viz models and possibly casting forms. Odd, no mention of high termperature SLS - there is at least one company shipping patient specific CMF devices for immediate implant OUS. Not models or tools - implants.
Aside - anyone have a link to the Army projects on mobile castng labs? Looks pretty cool, also...
Certainly the linkage of Adaptive Manufacturing technologies and metalcasting offers some of the most unique and valuable approaches for advancing products and materials. I've been assisting with a casting session at the SME Rapid conferences and we have a good session planned for Rapid2012 in Atlanta in May. Regading the mobile casting lab, I have seen the version developed by BuyCasting for the Army. The problem with this approach is the limitations placed upon trying to place a mobile manufacturing site into (2) 40 ft trailers. Sounds like a good idea, but the result is compromises either in the types of patterns or molds that can be made, metal melted, surface fuinsh, etc. So yuo don't get a true picture of the capabilities of the technology. The better approach is seeing it applied to advance manufacturing, like we have seen presented at these sessions.
I agree with Beth that the medical applications are the most compelling. This is where the ability to create a truly custom part -- tailored to a patient's body -- is most useful.
By far, the least impressive application was the titanium shoe heel. Of course, being a guy, I'm just not that into shoes. But it also seemed like the heel could have just as easily been made by bending titanium wire into the desired shape. The advantage of making it using laser sintering wasn't obvious. The mechanical properties of bent wire would probably be better, too.
I would have liked to see more about the use of additive manufacturing techniques to make patterns for metalcasting. Just because metalcasting has been around for over five thousand years doesn't make it an old technology. The interface between metalcasting and additive manufacturing is a case in point.
Dr. Pradeep Rohatgi at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has been working on developing a mobile metalcasting foundry for the U.S. Army which would potentially use rapid pattern manufacturing techniques. Maybe this could be the subject for another article?
Great slide show, Ann. To me, the most compelling aspect of the story around the widening array of materials choices for 3D printing is that it is opening up so many new doors in the medical field. The work being done to create both dental and orthopedic prosthetics is not fascinating, but it's life changing for so many patients. Let's hope the advances continue at the same pace.
Most of the new 3D printers and 3D printing technologies in this crop are breaking some boundaries, whether it's build volume-per-dollar ratios, multimaterials printing techniques, or new materials types.
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