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Fade out the gorgeous concept, these three industries are changing due to 3D printing

Date: 2018-05-14
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If you say that the impression that 3D printing gave many people a few years ago was a gorgeous concept, or just printing some interesting little things, the market has now completely changed.


In recent years, on the one hand, consumer attention on 3D printing has decreased; on the other hand, the breadth and depth of application of this technology in the heavy industry are rapidly increasing.


According to the changes in the number of venture capital in the global 3D printing industry, this trend can also be found. According to CB Insights statistics, the number of 3D printing investment has grown rapidly during 2013-2017. However, in terms of subdivisions, the opposite trend has emerged in the past two years:

Fade out the gorgeous concept, these three industries are changing due to 3D printing


On the one hand, the number of industrial-grade 3D printing investments has continued to grow; but at the same time, the number of investments in other areas, including consumer-grade 3D printing, has significantly declined since 2016. As can be seen from the data, the investment focus of 3D printing is shifting to industrial-level and enterprise-level applications.

From the exhibition perspective, 3D printing has produced disruptive changes in the following three industries:


1. Aviation/Aerospace


The aviation industry is the industry that makes the most of 3D printing technology. With the advantages of 3D printing, aviation companies can apply this technology in creating new, customizable parts. In the past, this was unthinkable.

Fade out the gorgeous concept, these three industries are changing due to 3D printing

An airline used its GE 3D printing service to design its helicopter engines, which enabled 40% of the parts to be manufactured by 3D printing and reduced the number of parts from 400 to 16. The other engine has been reduced from 855 parts to 12 parts, reduced weight by 5 pounds, and reduced the cost by 80%.


The ability to customize and manufacture micro components for each aircraft or spacecraft is changing the entire aviation industry.


At the show site, a company exhibited a 3D printed aircraft propeller and demonstrated how the new process allows them to monitor propeller operation at any time. They can even learn digitally when the propeller will undergo a major change, and previously required several different levels of safety and quality checks.


This is the "predictive maintenance" approach that is commonly used in IoT deployments.


Max Haut, founder and CEO of satellite company Launcher, said that 3D printing allows them to compete with large companies to some extent, and this was impossible five years ago.


2. Medical


One of the most eye-opening parts of the show is how 3D printing affects the medical industry.


Currently, medical professionals can already make 3D printed parts and engage and grow with bones to form stronger joints than before. Some patients have already used 3D printed parts, mainly knee and shoulder joint replacements.

Fade out the gorgeous concept, these three industries are changing due to 3D printing

The dental industry has begun to widely manufacture dentures and other oral-specific designs that cannot be manufactured in the past, such as 3D printed pith.


Some companies have even made major breakthroughs in 3D printing organs. For example, Materialise, a 3D printing medical device company, said that they have already produced a 3D printed kidney. With 3D printing technology, artificial organs are not as far away as we thought.


Large medical technology companies like Stryker have begun to introduce new designs to replace plaster and joint replacements and work with hospitals to expand the use of 3D printing. They even designed a tool for the doctor that can close the wound faster than before.


3. Energy


Energy is one of GE's important business areas, and the company has integrated 3D printing into many stages of the production process. For example, oil drill bits were previously expensive to manufacture and often damaged. However, with the 3D printing technology, the drills are now more robust than before.

Fade out the gorgeous concept, these three industries are changing due to 3D printing

For oil, gas and renewable energy, GE and other companies are using 3D printing technology to reduce material costs and shorten production time. They can print replaceable parts in the field instead of waiting for weeks as before. In addition, metal 3D printing has also been used in the manufacture of wind turbines and mining equipment.


Jason Oliver, president and chief executive officer of GE Additives Manufacturing, GE's additive manufacturing subsidiary, emphasized that 3D printing does not replace workers with robots, but instead reshapes the manufacturing process in modern society.


He said: "This is not an alternative but a question of redesigning the process and rethinking the production line." "This is the digitization of manufacturing..."


In the past four years, 3D printing spending has exceeded US$13 billion, but GE estimates that this number will reach US$280 billion in the next 10 years.


Oliver believes that many current industry leaders simply contact 3D printing and are very cautious about the new technology that will destroy the manufacturing process that has lasted for hundreds of years. He believes that every industry should consider how to optimize the production model and prepare for the near future.


All in all, 3D printing has moved away from its original concept of brilliance and is gradually expanding its industrial applications. This will not only reshape the manufacturing process, but will also reshape the competitive landscape of traditional industries.


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