Breakthroughs in 3D Printing
The 3D printing craze has spread in the Bay Area as more people are gaining access to these machines. Classes allow young students around the nation to explore this technology and create things from miniature action figures and jewelry. 3D printing comprises of a printer taking raw material and melting it down such that it can create any object using precise measurements. The struggle for a more durable material, aside from plastic, had long plagued companies trying to capitalize on this technology.
Now, scientists have overcome this hurdle by replacing plastic with an eco-friendly, durable material: steel. Researchers found a way to create metal products through utilizing the powder form. The latest metal 3D printers claim to be up to 10x less expensive than alternative metal additives methods, and 100x faster than traditional methods such as machining or casting. Currently, only stainless steel is available. Scientists hope to experiment with other materials such as copper, nickel, titanium, brass, and bronze. In the Bay Area, many companies have jumped at the opportunity marketing their products at local tech fairs looking for sponsors.
The beauty of metal 3D printing is its widespread application and its accessibility to not only large scale manufacturers but also local business owners and and the general public.
Metal 3D printing is actually more efficient and can accurately create parts with complex structures than conventional manufacturing. Metal 3D printing are actually more equipped for medical guides, prototypes, and complex oil/gas compartments.
Small business owners and mechanics can easily make parts for broken down cars instead of ordering them from a manufacturer and paying an enormous fabrication fee. Through improving the user interface of this feature through a touchscreen interface, this technology will soon be accessible to more people. In addition, this type of printer can be used for creating kitchen supplies and jewelry. Enabling features such as a plastic matrix and closed-cell infill have eliminated safety risks and reduced the cost of the part. In the medical field, this technology can additionally serve those who need custom bionic limbs or implants and can take just a few days to create an accurate model.
Although metal 3D printing has miles to go commercially, it could have monmental impacts on the manufacturing industry and beyond.
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