The Future of 3D Printing?

Posted by: antadm

At Antron, we’ve been using 3D printing in our contract manufacturing business for many years. Currently 3D is gaining a lot of exposure with the public as well, as many affordable production options are hitting the market as entry level experimental and hobby platforms. In fact the 3D market overall is so explosive that it is expected to grow to $7 billion by 2025. All of this helps to confirm that 3D printing is going to continue to influence “life as we know it,” both at home and in the shop.

But what forms will that influence take?

A recent article at 3dprinting.com takes an interesting look at where we’re at and where we might be going if 3D printing technology can continue to advance.

Clearly, rapid prototyping was an early result of the growing availability of 3D printing. Companies were suddenly able to evaluate design approaches without the expense of actual production. And the entire process was faster, which meant that the design iteration was more efficient.

But today we’re still stuck at the point where we can only print 3D parts out of plastic materials. Designed for demo or prototype use, 3D printing materials mean 3D printing is only a first, not a final step in production. We still need to make the final product out of the various materials determined by the demands of the use environment, and therefor the design itself.

What if in the future, the printer heads of 3D printing machines could use many different materials? This is a simple enough concept, and one could even imagine a world where sub-parts are actually printed and assembled into the finished product. But even sub-parts will need to have the correct properties in such areas as strength, rigidity, thermal tolerances and/or electrical conductivity.

So although this may be a simple concept, the reality is much more complex and still far in the future. Until we can print actual parts using a 3D printer, we should expect the growth of prototyping functionality to continue. And in the areas of plastics manufacturing, it seems likely that 3D will begin to change the way some products are made in the first place and the way replacement parts are created at home.

It’s a brave new world out there.

3D printing is an exciting area of growth and at Antron we will continue to evaluate its use and apply this exciting technology in any way that helps our clients reach their production goals.

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