A new report from IDTechEx entitled “3D Printing of Metals: 2015-2025” forecasts explosive growth for metal 3D printing over this 10-year period. Although 3D printing also uses materials such as food and plastic, the future looks especially bright for metal.
Key report findings and highlights
Key report highlights show:
A continual move towards full production metal parts and away from the current use of plastic based prototype versions
The Metals sector is the most rapidly growing category of 3D printing:
Printer sales are growing at 48% and
Material sales are growing at 32%
The earliest adopters of 3D printing have typically been high value, low volume, which has particularly been suitable for industries such as Aerospace, Biomedical and Jewellery. One example given in Aerospace is a $3.5billion investment in a production plant to make 100,000 fuel nozzles a year by 2020. Manufacturers are increasingly making heavier infrastructural investments in 3D printing technology
Specific examples of industrial applications of 3D printing include:
Aerospace – NASA intends to 3D print 80%+ of future rocket engines
Dental – Parts such as copings and bridges are being made using metal 3D printing
Jewellery – 3D printing is very suitable for jewellery production. Complex, bespoke, unique shapes can all be produced whilst giving the designer absolute freedom to express themselves
Metals being used in 3D printing include aluminium, bronze, cobalt alloys, copper, gold, nickel alloys, nitinol, palladium, platinum, silver, steel, titanium alloys and tungsten
Another field of application used by car industry is small batches. For instance, Ferrari has also planned to use additive manufacturing in their formula 1 racing vehicles. In their case, they are not planning to simply use it for prototyping but for many parts of the car, from plastic and carbon fiber pieces (wind tunnels, mirrors) to structural chassis parts. They also plan to create engine pistons with metal 3D printing. The interest is to create honeycomb structures that allow the same strength but much more lightweight. It is indeed one of the main advantages of 3D printing: creating complex shapes like lattices that reduce the weight but allow the piece to keep the same resistance.
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They consider additive manufacturing as the best way to integrate internal channels and special tools into the production of their cars, as they have not been able to be produced with other conventional manufacturing methods.
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