Manufacturers have been using industrial 3D printers for more than thirty years. Originally, industrial 3D printers were used primarily for rapid prototyping and the manufacture of final products. Today, industrial 3D printers have moved beyond manufacturing constraints and they have become critical to the economic production of parts and machine components.
Some of the technologies in use today, such as fused filament fabrication (FFF), were in fact invented in the early 80s’ however the technologies and processes for additive manufacturing have evolved considerably since. Significant 3D printing technologies used in manufacturing and engineering today include stereolithography (SLA), selective deposition lamination (SDL), selective laser sintering (SLS) and selective heat sintering (SHS). These 3D printing processes and technologies have enabled users to overcome design complexity challenges, and they can all offer cheap mass production for various applications.
We have seen various industries ramp up their use of industrial 3D printers in recent years, including the aviation and automotive industries, and more recently the gas and oil industry; with regards to the latter, General Electric’s oil and gas division are using 3D printers to manufacture low-cost metal nozzles for turbines. Industrial 3D printers can of course do a lot more than this however; they have the potential to revolutionise all engineering and manufacturing applications, and it’s only a matter of time before this happens.