3D printing moving to mainstream

3D printing, the manufacturing of products from digital 3D images, is now becoming mainstream, with instances of real, usable, physical end-products being made electronically rather than by traditional processes.

 One recent example was of Airbus making over 1,000 3D printed parts for its aircraft, in order to ensure delivery of aircraft on time.

Ido Eylon, General Manager, Southern Asia & Pacific, Stratasys AP Ltd., who was in Bengaluru recently, said though rapid prototyping was still the bread and butter of this new technology, it is fast becoming mainstream. 

One reason, he says, is increased awareness. “In the last three years, it has been much easier to interact with customers. Earlier, we had to do lot of explanation about what this can do. Then there was total disbelief. But the level of awareness is much better now,” Mr. Eylon said during an interaction with  The Hindu

The US, the Netherlands, Russia and Italy are leading markets for 3D printers. But, India is fast catching up, with many companies exploring the potential the new technology holds. According to 6Wresearch, the 3D printer market in India is projected to cross $79 million by 2021.

Demystifying technology

In April this year, Stratasys opened its first centre in India, in Bengaluru. It holds around 800 granted or pending additive manufacturing patents globally, and uses its FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) and PolyJet technologies, which are showcased at the company’s 3D Printing Experience Centre in Bengaluru. 

The centre aims at demystifying the technology, and makes it accessible to local manufacturers. Rajiv Bajaj, General Manager, India, Stratasys AP Ltd., said everybody in India had heard about 3D printing, but very few had an idea what it can do specifically.

“We have invested heavily on the centre here so that people can come here, and experience what the 3D printed product would look like, so that they understand in what way the technology can benefit them.” 

He said the company, in partnership with channel partners, has set up incubation labs where the industry and academia can come together for projects. “We plan to take this forward with the government; make it part of vocational training, engineering, medical education etc.” 

Advantages of 3D printing

3D printing removes many constraints associated with the traditional manufacturing processes.

Manufacturers can incorporate innovative designs and functionality in their products even while cutting down both operational costs and the time to market.

“3D printing allows you to do crazy things. It significantly enhances creativity,” Mr. Eylon said. “When very complicated designing is involved in a product that has to be manufactured fast and in relatively low numbers, 3D printing is useful. Highly creative products can be manufactured much faster,” he said.

3D printing is proving to be beneficial in healthcare. Mr. Eylon says, “In medical cases like brain tumour or hole in the heart, a 3D print of the organ give vital clues to help doctors plan their surgeries more accurately.”  

Practical applications

One example is eye surgery on patients who have suffered ‘orbital floor (blowout) fracture’. Such patients need implants inserted into the damaged area. Ophthalmologists can create accurate implants before an operation instead of having to manually adjust it during the operation.

 Doctors at the National University Hospital in Singapore have been using 3D printing since 2008 for commissioning models of their patients’ heads. They feel the physical model provides lot of specific information that is invaluable in determining exactly how to treat the patient.

Yet another medical application is ‘Exoskeleton’, which is a 3D printed artificial arm that helps children with underdeveloped muscles to play, feed themselves and hug. This has been found to be useful for children suffering from arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a non-progressive condition that causes stiff joints and underdeveloped muscles.

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Printable version | Aug 16, 2022 5:13:16 pm |