The majority experts agree that additive manufacturing is a complement and its not a direct competitor for techniques such as injection molding or CNC machining. 3D printing for low volume batch production is increasingly an option to bring a product to market, and analysis of trends in additive manufacturing for end use production estimate approximately one-third of Additive 3D printers are used for production.
Recent uses of 3D printing for production
Adidas and Carbon– 3D printed sneakers
April 2017 – the German footwear giant adidas launched the line of 3D printed shoes Futurecraft 4D.
The 3D printed sneakers’ production is done using “digital light synthesis” – a photopolymerisation method – from California-basedCarbon.According to Carbon, adidas has a
“current [production]target [of]100k by 2018 and ultimately true mass production as things scale up, aka 10s of millions.”
The first batch of 3D printed Futurecraft 4D shoes was released on January 18th 2018, the demand outpaced supply and resale prices for the adidas Futurecraftreached $20,000.
Chanel and Erpro Group – 3D printed make-up brushes
Chanel, the french fashion brand announced production of the first entirely 3D printed mascara brushes would begin in June. With a patent originally filed in 2007 and in partnership with Parisian 3D printing bureau Erpro Group, 3D printed production of 1 million brushes a month is the goal.
The designed product allows a higher volume of mascara to be loaded onto the make-up brush. Additive Manufacturing is used to create microcavities in the core of the brush, and also enhance its adhesion to eyelashes thanks to a larger surface area.
Align Technology – digital dentistry and 3D printed aligners
The Align Technology Inc’s company is boasting 3D printing farm with over 60 additive manufacturing systems, has set out to revolutionise dental care, combining 3D technology with dentistry to produce 8 million orthodontics a year. Approved by the US Food and Drug Agency since 1998 and using bio-compatible polyurethane resin,
The Invisalign process enables dentists to convert scans of the oral cavity into digital files,
which are then used to 3D print and manufacture the customised orthodontics.
Optomec and LITE-ON – 3D printed smartphones
While 3D printing phone cases is no rare phenomenon, Optomec, headquartered in New Mexico, started applying additive manufacturing technology to mass production in 2016. (What’s AM technology?).
Optomec uses a hybrid approach, combining Additive Manufacturing with subtractive techniques such as CNC milling.(What’s CNC Machining?) According to Ken Vartanian, Vice-president of Marketing at Optomec, while CNC milling facilitates the surface polish,
“A large percentage of the electronics in a smartphone can be manufactured with additive manufacturing”
-Ken Vartanian, Optomec-
Stratasys and Airbus – 3D printed aerospace components
May 2015 – Additive Manufacturing company Stratasys, based in Minnesotta, revealed that it had produced over 1000 parts for the Airbus A350 XWB passenger plane:
Stratasys states that one of the great appeals of 3D printing technology is the flexibility it affords aircraft manufacturers, helping them meet production deadlines. Dan Yalon at Stratasys argues that 3D printing also increases the buy-to-fly ratio and results in an amount of wasted material that is considerably lesser than with traditional manufacturing processes.
While it remains too early to declare whether Additive Manufacturing can replace traditional manufacturing methods, the potential of innovation shown by 3D Printing compared to injection molding or CNC machining is already evident.
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Article and featured image:
3D Printing Industry, Pierre Antoine Zahnd May 1st 2018 https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/3d-printing-ready-mass-production-132576/ visited on May 4th 2018;
Seth Fowler, ADIDAS FUTURECRAFT 4D REVIEW: THE 3D PRINTED SNEAKER Mar 22nd 2018 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TBklUkm8KQ visited on May 4th 2018;
ERPRO logo http://erpro-3dfactory.com/, visited May 4th 2018;
Isura Lakitha Nissanka , World Largest Twin Engined Airbus – New A350-1000 XWB Airbus Best of Video Highlights May 14th 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFoxhGiSjow visited on May 4th 2018;