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    The future of 3D printing

    Three-dimensional (3D) printing has gained traction as an exciting, innovative technology over the last few years. But what exactly is it? And what materials are needed in the process?

    Otherwise known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is the process of creating solid objects from a digital file. The process itself consists of adding material, which can be described as a thinly sliced cross-section, one layer at a time until you have a 3D model of your original digital file. Essentially, 3D printing is an alternative way of producing parts, rather than the more traditional methods of subtractive or formative manufacturing technologies.

    You may still be asking, “How does 3D printing work?”. Let’s start with the digital file, or model, as this is the blueprint for your design. Computer software takes the model, and by a process called slicing, cuts it into thousands of 2D layers. These layers become a set of instructions for the printer to build the model. The next step depends on the printer, as they can vary in process. A desktop printer will usually melt down plastic filaments in order to apply the layers straight onto its print platform via a nozzle, whereas a larger industrial machine will use a laser to sinter thin layers of metal, or alternatively plastic powders.

    What can 3D printers do?

    The 3D printing industry can produce much more than you might think! Since the 1970s, companies have been utilising the technology as part of the design process to create prototypes. Today, 3D printing is used in almost every industry you can think of, from consumer products such as furniture and eyewear to dental products and high-performance parts used in the aerospace industry. The options we now have for 3D printing are endless.

    Materials for 3D printing

    Due to the demand for such a wide variety of 3D printed products, there is a broad range of materials used. Most materials are produced in wire feedstock (printer filament), powder form, or as liquid resin. The 3D printing materials you can expect to see are:

    • Plastics: PLA, ABS, resin, nylon, PETG
    • Metals: stainless steel, aluminium
    • Concrete
    • Ceramics
    • Paper
    • Edible material, such as chocolate

    The Future of 3D Printing

    The current adoption of 3D printing has reached critical mass; it is now a rarity to not have integrated additive manufacturing as part of the supply chain. From humble beginnings as a concept thought up by Sci-Fi author Arthur C. Clarke, 3D printing has become an evolving production technology.

    The bulk of demand for 3D printed products comes from industrial sectors. Despite the great advancements we’ve already seen from the technology, this is still only the beginning. Forecasts expect the 3D printing market to reach a value of $41 billion by 2026. 3D printing technology is set to completely change the face of nearly all the major industries we know today. It will even integrate itself into our everyday lives, changing the way we work and live in the future.

    To learn more about 3D printing or the materials involved in the process, please contact the Goodfellow team today.

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