• FROM AERO-SPACE TO CONSUMPTION GOODS. Industries are adopting 3D printing to speed up and optimize production processes.

The advantages that 3D printing offers include

  • Optimization of the functions of the product
  • Greater production efficiency
  • Greater customization
  • Reduced time-to-market
  • Spare parts on demand

For this reason, companies in the aero-spatial, medical, automotive and industrial sectors are accelerating their investments in this technology.
General production is changing very rapidly by applying 3D printing solutions. To improve their development, companies should start to expand the use of 3D printing not limiting it to prototyping but also applying it to production.

Aero-spatial

Aero-spatial companies are amongst the most advanced users of 3D printing. They not only use 3D printing in production but they also contribute to the standardization efforts. As more aero components incorporate 3D printed parts on board, the sector has started to adopt this technology.

The aero-spatial sector is one of the first industries to have adopted 3D printing. The first use of the technology dates back to 1989. In 2018, aero-spatial industry accounted for 12% of the total market of additive production, strongly contributing to the ongoing progresses in the sector.

The aero-spatial sector is indeed one of the most mature industries for 3D printing. In this field technology adds value to prototyping applications and tools and in particular to the production of spare parts.

Some of the principal actors in the sector, including GE, Airbus, Boeing, Safran and GKN use in their production processes cutting-edge 3D printing technologies, particularly for metal.

An emblematic example is the last two-engine jet (777X) by Boeing, which will fly with six components obtained through 3D printing in its engines (GE9X) by the end of the year. Amongst these parts there are the renowned fuel nozzles by GE, which are 3D printed, as well as other parts, such as temperature sensors, fuel mixers and larger parts like heat exchangers, and dividers.

For example, in February 2018 Boeing collaborated with Oerlikon for the standardization of 3D printing in titanium for aero-spatial applications, while last summer SAE International has issued four different standards for 3D printing in the aero-spatial field.

Standardization is a clear indicator that the technology is becoming more and more ordinary and less exotic.
Forecast for 3D printing in the aero-spatial sector shows a growing trend and market relationships foresee a CAGR between 17.55 and 20.24% in the next five years. These numbers suggests that the use of this technology will continue to expand because the aero-spatial industries are finding new avenues for using the technology while becoming more experienced in 3D printing.

Medical and Dental Sectors

Orthopaedic implants represent one of the greatest opportunities for the growth of 3D printing

3D printing has earned an important role in the medical sector, enlarging the possibilities of providing personalized assistance, producing customized medical products, and pre-surgical models.

According to a report by the market research institute, SmarTech, the market of medical 3D printing, materials, services, software and hardware included, is estimated to be at $1.25 milliard. Within 2027 this number should grow up to $6.08 milliards.

The three principal areas will be the orthopaedic field, personalized surgery and medical aids. The orthopaedic field is one of the greatest growth opportunities of the technology. SmarTech foresees that by 2021 over 1 milliard implants will be printed in 3D metal.

A key factor of this growth is the ability to use 3D printing for creating orthopaedic implants of superior quality. These implants have complex mesh structure, which allows a better bone growth and, in the end, better treatment results.

In the dental field, 3D printing is well positioned to become the principal digital process for the production of dental models, orthodontic aligners, restorations and other activities.

Orthodontic transparent aligners are a market that is ready to prosper with 3D printing. For example, Align Technology, the producer of transparent aligners Invisalign, has recently increased its investment in the 3D printing technology (SLA, 3D Systems). At Align, technology is used to produce moulds for over 320.000 unique transparent aligners per day.

Automotive

3D printing in the automotive sector has changed from being a single prototype instrument to a production solution in niche markets like luxury cars and racing automobiles.

In the last 12 months, important car industries have introduced in their vehicles 3D printed parts. For example, Ford is collaborating with Carbon, a producer of 3D printers based on resin, on the production of semi-processed and spare parts for its vehicles. This includes service parts of the level arm, auxiliary plugs and brake brackets for parking.

At the end of 2018, BMW declared to have 3D printed its millionth component, which was under production since 2010. The component was a window guide for BMW i8 Roadster and it was 3D printed using Multi Jet Fusion by HP.

In addition to the more common polymers, new cheaper and faster metallic binders are becoming points of strength in the automotive industry.

These trends indicate that the automotive industry is expanding the industrial application of 3D printing in its work and production flow.

Components

Components of machinery and tools used in the production of other products. In this sector 3D printing offers advantages including shorter delivery times, flexibility in design and production on demand.

3D printing is now more and more used for the production of tools, components of machineries and spare parts.
For example, one of the greatest producers in the world of instrumental goods, CNH Industrial, has recently announced that it will introduce 3D printing in its production. The main area of interest will be the production of spare parts for buses and agricultural tools.

The producer has already identified the first four parts, that will be produced in plastic, but soon it will try to add to its capacities metal 3D printing. In the end, CNH Industrial hopes to produce a complete range of parts using 3D printing to “respond to all types of needs in every phase of the product life cycle.”

Consumption goods

In the sector of consumption goods, the application of 3D printing focuses on the creation of prototypes used in the design and development phases of the product.

The real potential of the technology could reside in the direct production of consumption goods. The principal advantages of the use of 3D printing are the economic customization and a broader freedom in the design.
Starting from 2019, the production of footwear, glass wear, jewellery and bicycles is the greatest segment that uses 3D printing in production processes.

Through polymeric technology, the SLS glass wear industry has been a precursor of the use of 3D printing for final production. German glass wear industry Mykita GmbH, has launched the first collection of glass wear using 3D printing already in 2011. For this reasons, brands like adidas, Nike, New Balance, Reebok e Under Armour are adopting 3D printing technologies such as SLS, SLA e Carbon’s DLS to introduce elements like midsole and insoles in their shoes.

In the jewellery sector 3D printing offers two ways of operation. The first consists in the 3D printing of micro casting models, which are cheaper and faster to produce compared to traditional methods.
The second is that of printing jewellery in 3D, directly using precious metals.

Both methods allow for the creation of personalized jewels having geometric definition and a complexity impossible to realize with other means.

Even bicycle producers are introducing 3D printing in their production. This new opportunity is mostly linked to the fulfilment of composite 3D printing. By using composite 3D printing, bicycle producers can create customized bikes more quickly and easily compared to usual methods.

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