3D Printers and Embedded Electronics

In the article “Engineers 3D Print First Fully Functional Drone With Embedded Electronics & Aerospace-Grade Material”( http://www.3dprintpulse.com/?open-article-id=5863467&article-title=engineers-3d-print-first-fully-functional-drone-with-embedded-electronics—aerospace-grade-material&blog-domain=3ders.org&blog-title=3ders)  a recent 3D printing innovation is explored. Normally, embedding electronics in 3D prints is a challenge due to the high temperatures used during the printing process (160C). However, Philip Keane, an NTU PhD candidate, modified and embedded commercial grade electronics at key stages throughout the printing of the drone. The drone design is able to support 60kg of suspended weight, and “stands as the first fully operational quadrocopter to be 3D printed in ULTEM 9085 – a high strength, lightweight FDM material certified for use in commercial aircrafts – all in a single step”. While it does state in the article that the “entire process proved to be meticulous”, it did have a successful ending. In total, printing the drone took 14 hours, with 3 individual pauses to embed the necessary electronic equipment. Now that embedding electronics within 3D prints is an option, what future innovations are coming? Only time will tell.

3D Printing Our Way to Space

The article “The Possibilities of Weight Reduction with Additive Manufacturing” (http://3dprinting.com/metal/possibilities-weight-reduction-additive-manufacturing/) reviews a partnership that Atos, a Spanish digital solutions company, and Materialise, a 3D printing services company in Belgium, have formed. These two companies how to partner up to improve current technologies within the aerospace industry. The first initiative they took was to improve a mounting piece that is generally used to attach heavy and large structures to satellites. They were able to reduce the weight by utilizing lattice structures to form a strong, yet hollow per component which weighed 70% less! Amazingly enough, the material they 3D printed was titanium, which is known as the “best performing metal for AM technology”.

The 5Ps of Additive Manufacturing

In the recent article “Lockheed Martin Looks to Catch Up in 3D Printing”(http://advancedmanufacturing.org/lockheed-5ps-additive-manufactuirng/), an overview is provided of a seminar in which Robert Ghobrial, the additive manufacturing lead, spoke. Robert Ghobrial was clear that while Lockheed Martin is still exploring 3D manufacturing and the most effective ways to use the new technology, they were making great headway, and had already seen some recent successes. Ghobrial also provided what he called “The 5Ps of Additive Manufacturing”, which outline how additive manufacturing can help aerospace, defense, and other businesses. The 5Ps are:

  1. Proposal: “3D printing can make giveaways at trade shows; architectural and space models; and aid in customer/client communication.”
  2. Prototype: “3D printed prototypes help with design validation and proof of concept development.”
  3. Procurement: “Can we make something vs. buying it?”
  4. Production Support: “3D printing can support production by helping make assembly fixtures, manufacturing tooling, production templates, inspection fixtures and machine safeguards.”
  5. Production: “AM can produce end-use parts; make parts on demand for spares, warranty and repairs support; and even manage obsolescence.”

These 5Ps provide all of a unique perspective into some of the ways many businesses may be able to employ 3D printing. How effective will additive manufacturing be in the long run? Only time will tell.

Is 3D Printing Really the Future?

All over the media we are reading about how 3D printing is going to change the manufacturing industry completely. Is this fact a guarantee? The article “The Limits of 3D Printing” (https://hbr.org/2015/06/the-limits-of-3d-printing) give a converse view to this new technology. Per the article, “…the economics of 3D printing now and for the foreseeable future make it an unfeasible way to produce the vast majority of parts manufactured today”. Because of this assumption, the author proposes that we “…look to new areas where it can exploit its unique capabilities to complement traditional manufacturing processes”. Building off of this statement, the article also addresses the theory that with 3D printing, global supply chains will become a thing of the past by stating that “this vision does not stack up to economic reality”. One of the widely accepted benefits of 3D printing is that product customization is much easier. Despite this fact, the article states that “… 99% of all manufactured parts are standard and do not require customization”. Due to this fact, “… when customization isn’t important, 3D printing is not competitive”. How much of these ideas are fact? Is 3D printing the future, or just a complement we will utilize for customization? For now, only time will tell.

Is 3D Printing the Future?

All over the media we are reading about how 3D printing is going to change the manufacturing industry completely. Is this fact a guarantee? The article “The Limits of 3D Printing” (https://hbr.org/2015/06/the-limits-of-3d-printing) give a converse view to this new technology. Per the article, “…the economics of 3D printing now and for the foreseeable future make it an unfeasible way to produce the vast majority of parts manufactured today”. Because of this assumption, the author proposes that we “…look to new areas where it can exploit its unique capabilities to complement traditional manufacturing processes”. Building off of this statement, the article also addresses the theory that with 3D printing, global supply chains will become a thing of the past by stating that “this vision does not stack up to economic reality”. One of the widely accepted benefits of 3D printing is that product customization is much easier. Despite this fact, the article states that “… 99% of all manufactured parts are standard and do not require customization”. Due to this fact, “… when customization isn’t important, 3D printing is not competitive”. How much of these ideas are fact? Is 3D printing the future, or just a complement we will utilize for customization? For now, only time will tell.

3D Printing for the Non-Industrial Consumer?

The article “3D printing and the Future of Manufacturing” (http://www.industryweek.com/emerging-technologies/3d-printing-and-future-manufacturing-infographic) is an infographic that breaches the norm of 3D printing discussions. Instead of talking about how 3D printing could influence the industrial manufacturing industry, this article focuses another potential user; the non-industrial consumer. As stated in the article “Today, almost anyone can become a manufacturer or contribute to the manufacturing process.” “If applied correctly, that point might be the biggest business opportunity presented by the technology to date.” The article displays ten major characteristics of 3D printing, three of which will be discussed today.

  1. The range of materials is exploding: 3D printing is no longer limited to plastics or the recently added metals, but can now be incorporated with ceramics, concrete, food, and other biological substances, among others. This opens the 3D printing market to virtually every business today.
  2. New major players: As stated above, almost anyone can become a manufacturer or contribute to the manufacturing process. The possibilities are endless.
  3. The consumer possibilities are also endless: 3D printing enables customization at no additional costs, giving a sustainable solution to the “thirst” of personalization.

These three main points, along with many other aspects and benefits of 3D printing, create the perfect storm for 3D printing to flourish. As the technology grows and improves, the impact of 3D printing will only continue to grow.

3D Printing; The New Future

The article “Why 3D Printing Could be a Manufacturing and Logistics Game Changer” (http://www.manufacturing.net/blog/2013/10/why-3d-printing-could-be-manufacturing-and-logistics-game-changer) reviews the capabilities revolutionary characteristics of 3D printing. The article highlights five main benefits of 3D printing:

  1. Three-dimensional printing increases production speed while reducing costs: For any company it’s beneficial to either increase production speed or reduce costs, but to be able to do both would change the industry completely.
  2. Consumer demand will have more influence over production: The possibilities of customization with 3D printing could “re-establish how manufacturers respond to customer demand. Manufacturing could become more consumer-based and responsive to the current market and its needs”.
  3. Instead of outsourcing, we could return to “near-sourcing” and U.S. production: With lower costs, outsourcing labor could become unnecessary. In contrast, manufacturing facilities “would be located closer to the consumer, allowing for a more flexible and responsive manufacturing process, as well as greater quality control”.
  4. The need for global transportation is significantly decreased: As discussed in #3, with manufacturing sites located locally, global transportation would become unnecessary, which again would help reduce costs even more.
  5. Logistics companies could offer more comprehensive, start-to-finish services: “With 3D printing technology in-house, logistics companies could take on more of a fourth-party logistics (4PL) approach instead of a third-party logistics (3PL) approach.

Before 3D printing can have a drastic effect on the manufacturing industry, it will need to be scaled up for mass and mainstream use. But as summarized above, the possible benefits of 3D printing are staggering.