Where is 3D Printing Used and What Are Its Benefits?

In recent years, 3D printing has seen a surge in development and can now be used for a variety of applications, from manufacturing to medicine, architecture, custom art and design. It can range from fully functional applications to purely aesthetic ones. For example, CT scans of crime victims can be used to produce 3D printed replicas of various parts of the body, which can help pathologists determine the full circumstances of a crime. Designers use 3D printers to quickly create product models and prototypes, but they are also increasingly being used to manufacture final products.

Automotive and aviation industries use 3D printers to make parts, while artists can create sculptures and architects can make models of their projects. Archaeologists are using 3D printers to reconstruct models of fragile artifacts, while paleontologists and their students can duplicate dinosaur skeletons and other fossils. There are three main types of 3D printers, each using a slightly different method. The automotive industry has been moving forward with additive manufacturing, with high-profile companies such as Audi using 3D printers.

It's not just the Audis of the world that use 3D printers; from racing teams to sub-manufacturers (OEMs) for every car manufacturer, 3D printers are being used. Initially, the value of the 3D printing industry that reached automakers focused on building the tools and accessories that aid the manufacturing process. The most common parts printed by car manufacturers are accessories, bases and prototypes, which must be rigid and resistant as well as durable. Students learn about 3D printing applications by designing and producing models that can truly sustain.

While you won't be moving to a 3D printed house on the near horizon, you can experience 3D printed construction projects today. In recent years, 3D printing manufacturers have brought biocompatible skin-safe materials to the market, allowing in-house production of headphone models and eartips. Special among Formlabs' SLA 3D printing materials is a medical-grade material validated for short-term contact with tissues, bones and dentin. Construction 3D printing offers several technologies that use 3D printing as the primary way to manufacture buildings or building components.

One of the most promising new developments in sculpture is the integration of 3D printing and Virtual Reality (VR). In situations where a product is not going to be mass-produced, 3D printing (also known as “additive manufacturing” in manufacturing circles) is ideal as it allows for relatively economical production in much smaller volumes or on a case-by-case basis. With improvements and variations in both machines and materials used in them, costs have been reduced making 3D printing applications more accessible and cost-effective across industries and education. In fact, popular clear aligners thermoformed in 3D printed molds are arguably the most successful use of 3D printing we have seen to date. As an industry already based on geometric design, prototyping and modeling, architecture benefits greatly from advances in 3D printing technology.

The company has experience in 3D printing on both plastics and metals, even helping develop new custom metals for its NASA Tipping Point project. In addition, professional 3D printers can now print larger parts at faster speeds expanding the scope of potential aerospace applications to take advantage of the benefits of additive manufacturing.