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The world of Commercial and Desktop 3D Printing has greatly evolved over the past few years. As more technologies are leaning towards Artificial Intelligence, it is not surprising that 3D Printing would have developments which cater to new smart devices and other Modern Technologies. Yet, it is not just Artificial Intelligence which has effected Additive Manufacturing. Here are a few areas in which the 3D printing process is evolving in 2017.

Metal 3D Printing to revolutionise the manufacturing industry

The ability for models to be 3D Printed from materials such as metal, plastics, and other composites material not traditionally used within the automotive industry, have led to leaps and bounds within manufacturing. When testing was conducted, comparing the weight of a standardized manufactured part to that of a part created with a metal 3D Printer, it was shown that the 3D Printing Process, coupled with smart design, potentially yielded a part which weighed 83% less than the part it replaced. And while there may be some concerns amongst certain sceptics as to the durability versus the weight of the product. Further testing showed that due to the ability to create a singular part over a multiple part object (21 to be precise), that the durability and the expected longevity of the manufactured piece increased substantially.

The efficiency of the Commercial 3D Printer has been estimated to save roughly 1 million dollars or more per year in manufacturing costs (in totality not per printer). It is very probable that various industries will transition away from the traditional means of manufacturing with steel, brass, and other metals, and embrace Metal 3D Printing.

Electronic Devices have been fabricated with 3D printing, expect more to come

The integration between smart technology and 3D Printing has merged with the breakthrough of 3D Printed transistors. Professor Jonathan Coleman and his team at Trinity College Dublin have successfully used 3D Printing to create a transistor printed with layered material.

This innovation in 3D Printing could be used to create solar panels, banknotes, LEDs, Smart Technology, or even smart devices and technologies to assist with medical and pharmaceutical applications such as smaller, barely visible, health monitors

Super thin printing capabilities continue to push the boundaries for 3D Printed products

In the past, desktop 3D Printers did not have the ability to produce prints in high resolution. Granted, the devices have come a long way, but for the most part, 3D printers which could print with a resolution below 100 µm had been restricted to the commercial sector. The emergence of more precise printing capabilities in desktop 3D Printers has vastly increased the quality and has pushed the boundaries for what can be done with 3D Printing. The ability produces a very thin, flexible, elastic like material expands the parameters of modern printing as a whole.

3D Printing has had a positive effect on traditional inkjet printing.  Thinner prints with the ability to flex, as well as have the capacity to house a wide range of ‘smart electronics’, opens the door for printed, yet wearable, products. Due to inkjet printer’s capacity to produce extremely thin (as thin as 0.75µm) prints, thin and flexible materials can be printed in a multitude of designs to cover the human skin. As statistics show that 14% of our population has a tattoo of some sort, the ability to print smart coverings for one’s skin, using advanced methods, from a desktop printer, could revolutionize the way in which this body art is performed whilst giving the tattoo itself technological features. First, the process would be safer as no invasive needles or tattoo ink would be used. Secondly, dependent upon the methodology in which the material is printed on the skin, the tattoos may be non-permanent. Lastly, and most importantly, these smart tattoos could potentially share valuable information about wearer. Information such as heart rate, blood pressure and sugar levels.

HP joins the 3D printing arena

Perhaps one of the biggest developments in desktop 3D Printing would be the introduction of HP’s first Multi-Jet Fusion Machines. HP is one of the top computer contenders on the market, and so the integration into the 3D Printing arena could spell some big-time changes in the number of 3D printers on the market. Consequently, as current HP products are distributed in some of the leading mega stores, one could expect to see a watered-down version of their 3D Printers hitting the basic consumer shelves soon. Of course, it can be expected that any printer which makes it to the bulk, shelf stocked aisles of a mega store will be far less competent in the 3D Printing process than an industrial 3D printer, but it will still be interesting to see how such would play a role in overall Additive Manufacturing developments.

Due to the more domesticated machine entering the mainstream, one can expect to see some developments take place with larger 3D Printing companies such as 3D Systems. Commercial 3D printer options will see additional features to stay completive. This is not to say that they are not already packed with features unavailable on desktop 3D Printers, but rather that the affordability of commercial grade products as well as the features will need to become more realistic for the average user.

With the technology, the expanding capabilities, and the abundance of machines (both commercial and desktop), 2017 may be the year that transitions the world over to primarily 3D manufacturing.

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