3D printing is not just a production method for the future

3D printing rose to the top of the Gartner Hype Cycle and became widely known to the general public in 2013. The hype generated the still existing idea that, in the future, all manufacture will take place through 3D printing. The purpose of this blog is to bring 3D printing to the present day.

Even though we do not often see it, we live in the midst of 3D printed, or additively manufactured, products and components. The market, which is worth about 10 billion dollars globally, is growing by 25–30% annually. When we fly, the aircraft has been manufactured using components made through additive manufacturing in order to decrease the weight of the aircraft and thus its fuel consumption. Similarly, the components of telecommunications satellites are printed to make them lighter. All major car manufacturers utilise additive manufacturing to enhance the production process, such as a well-known Danish toy manufacturer. Spare parts for trains as well as train passengers (such as hip implants) are made through additive manufacturing.

When it comes to industries more familiar to Finns, additive manufacturing is utilised, for example, in mechanical wood processing machinery and equipment or in the pumps and valve equipment of the process industry. Many new industries that have not previously used the technology are currently looking for applications where additive manufacturing will provide a competitive advantage. Additive manufacturing components are often part of a larger entity and therefore do not necessarily stand out to the consumer. At its best, additive manufacturing is part of production as a whole, where different manufacturing methods are utilised in parallel according to their specific strengths.

The benefit of additive manufacturing is generated, for example, through the component’s improved performance, lightness, faster delivery time or more efficient manufacturing process. Often the benefit is generated throughout the component’s life cycle. In other words, even though the manufacturing costs may be higher than those of a traditionally manufactured component, the benefit of the manufacturing method may be achieved, for example, through faster start-up of expensive production by means of a printed spare part. 3D printing is not just a manufacturing method for the future; instead, it is already a strong part of the present day production technology of a competitive organisation.

VTT’s 3DMetalprint service provides top expertise and an infrastructure covering the entire production chain for companies to utilise. Whether we are talking about new applications, manufacturing process optimisation and production integration or material development, 3DMetalprint provides expertise for both companies that are just starting to become familiar with 3D printing technology as well as those for whom it is already strongly present today.

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Read more about 3DMetalprint.

Pasi Puukko
Research Team Leader

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