As manufacturing in the U.S. surges back, there are certain technological trends and advances that are helping to lead the charge. One of these is additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing, and it’s being called a “game-changer” by many. It’s a trend that’s definitely here to stay.
It’s being used by everyone from students in classrooms to the Department of Defense, and many small and medium-sized manufacturers are using it to create rapid prototypes that save significant time and money. According to this article, “80% of it [for now] is for models, prototypes, toys, experiments—but only for now.” It’s projected to truly be the technology of the near future, and promises to change the face of manufacturing as we know it.
The process of additive manufacturing uses a CAD-created digital model to make a three-dimensional solid object on a 3-D printer, adding successive layers until the product is created. The technology has become more widely used in the last 15 years, with the past few years seeing extreme growth.
While being mainly used for rapid prototyping now—helping to make American manufacturing faster, better, and cheaper—new uses are being created every day. Just recently, 3-D printing was used by Cornell engineers to make a working loudspeaker in one operation, and a new desktop app was introduced that allows for printing of flexible objects at home.
The aforementioned PackWorld article states that while GE plans to make fuel nozzles for jet engines through this process, soon enough, we might be seeing adaptable child prosthetics and even shoes printed from home. The writer compares additive manufacturing to the radio and the PC—changing our world forever.
With all that’s already been done, it’s beyond exciting to imagine what will come next.