What a fascinating idea, that 3D printing could become a regular part of low-volume manufacturing. Will there be any quality implications? A prototype is one thing, years of service is a product is another.
Rob, low-volume manufacturing is not a new idea in 3D printing, especially for aerospace, as we've covered before: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=262205 http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=258652 http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=251526
Ann, you are correct. I was talking to a small shop just the other day. They have used 3D printing for some types of low rate custom products. They also use a corn stalk based plastic in their 3D printer. I think it was PLA. They gave me a small Tardis model made with PLA. It is very detailed.
On the other hand, there is a point at which injection molding becomes more effective. Even if you use aluminum for the mold, if you have a CNC machine it is generally easy to do.
What is interesting is that there are so many good new manufacturing technologies available. The distinguishing feature of many of them is the ability to interface directly with CAD systems. Using the right manufacturing technology for the particular part will help streamline manufacturing and make it more efficient. 3D can be a big part of that.
What you are doing sounds incredibly cool and useful, but the thought of 3D printing an airbus gives me the willies. I know machines can be remarkable and people can make mistakes, but I still would feel better knowing the plane was assembled by craftsmen rather than printed by a machine.
I was at the midatlantic design conference today. I saw the Baxter robot there. It occured to me that a 3D printer is the perfect accessory for that robot. It was designed to be very flexible and easy to teach a process. However you still need a gripper and possibly fixtures for holding parts for assembly, packaging etc. So they could provide 3D cad files of the end of arm interface or stock gripping mechanism. Then you'd add the necessary shapes required to handle your part to the model, print it, and this afternoon you could be doing a whole new task. What a great combination!
Yes Rob you are correct , it is an excellent idea that 3D printing is not just used for prototyping it is also now used for manufacturing . Creating 3D prited airbus was an excellent idea and it really fascinated me . Now 3D printing is comming towards consumer friendly price points . 3D printing which was initially used for prototyping is now being used in number of industries like aerospace . defense , automative and healthcare etc.
As advancement is going on in 3D Printing technology accuracy has improved and size of printed objects has also increased .With this advancement now air plane parts , aerodynamic car bodies are being 3D printed . But one should remember that it is not only used to recreat the objects but it can also be used to creat new and different objects which never created .
Many people thought the personal computer was a gimmick, Rob. I remember people saying, "I don't need a computer to store recipes." For some reason, people talked a lot about recipe storage in those early years.
Chuck, I was one of those people asking why I needed a computer to store recipes. Storing recipes was the killer app PC makers were marketing to consumers in the early 80s via TV and magazine ads, when there were about 20 different models with 20 different OS. They gave no other possible reason for owning one. Of course, the whole thing sounded absurd. That was a long time before Apple or Intel Inside and the rise of consumer-oriented marketing in Silly Valley.
I can see a future niche for using 3D printers for high mix/low volume manufacturing. For certain products, it would be cost-effective for the 'limited edition' version of a product to be printed on a 3D printer.
I also see a niche for 'personalized' products built with 3D printers. A company might take your personal measurements and preferences and built a unique, one-of-a-kind product using this technology.
A middle school team from Rochester, Mich., has again nabbed the grand prize in the annual international Future City Competition, which drew students from 37 regions of the United States, as well as from England and China.
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Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.