Though rapid prototyping has been prevalent in the product development industry, it now has entered the commercial manufacturing sector.
Though additive manufacturing was used in the product development stage, it still is unexplored in the manufacturing of the finished product. The companies do not want to experiment with different techniques and the resources of 3D printing are scarcely available.
Deloitte management firm recently released its reports reaffirming the above-mentioned facts. In its report 3D printing in TMT predictions 2015, it stated that while rapid prototyping was used for 90% of 3D objects but final manufacturing in 3D will only be 10%. It further said that the giant automotive manufacturers in the U.S were not using 3D printing for manufacturing their models and would not do in the next two years.
But this scenario is fast changing and small and medium scale industries are on the verge of adaption the 3D technology.
In 2000, a Belgium-based company named Materialise NV collaborated with the Swiss hearing aid Phonak to 3D print hearing aids and it is estimated that 15 million hearing aids were manufactured worldwide which shows that large volumes of manufacturing are possible with 3D printing.
In September 2014, the Local Motors of Phoenix, Arizona, developed a 3D printed vehicle ‘Strati’. About 75% of ‘Strati’ were built using 3D printing technology, once again proving that additive manufacturing could be used in large-scale production.
A Northwestern University developed metal using 3D printing. It used liquid ink that comprised of metal powder, solvent, and binder. Like the inkjet printing mechanism, it squirts out the ink to form the model. The model is then heated in a normal furnace as opposed to the laser/electron module on the3D printer. This way the university reduced the manufacturing cost associated with using the laser.
Small companies have been investing in the fables model of manufacturing to curtail cost and compete with the bigger names in the market. The rapid prototyping firms can function as print foundries to increase their profit.
With small companies executing successful 3D print projects, the large manufacturers will soon be taking the plunge into 3D printing.