3-dimensional printing or additive manufacturing has really evolved in the past few years, and with its applications ranging from healthcare and research to the automobile and the space industry, its importance and usefulness cannot be denied. This technology was first devised in the 1980’s, but being in its incipient stage and due to lack of proper equipment, it wasn’t utilised much. However, due to the constant innovation and prototyping that has taken place since, the age where 3-D printing’s immense potential has the capability of being realised isn’t too far away. By being a next-generation manufacturing technology, it can produce individual parts or the final product itself thus profoundly changing production and design processes.
What are the different types of technologies that are used in 3-d printing?
- Vat Photopolymerization
This process basically uses a light source which hardens successive layers of photopolymer resin which is placed in a container. A UV laser beam traces the first slice of an object on the resin’s surface, causing a very thin layer of photopolymer to harden after which the perforated platform which it is placed on is lowered and the cycle repeats.
2. Material Jetting
This method is similar to normal inkjet printers in that it applies material in the form of droplets through a nozzle; the only difference is that it is applied layer-by-layer which is then hardened by UV light to build the 3-D object.
3. Binder Jetting
The Binder Jetting method uses a powder base material and a liquid binder to build the final product. The binder is applied through nozzles which stick the powder base particles together in the form of the 3-D object.
The other methods used are Material extrusion, Powder bed fusion etc.
What does 3-D printing imply with respect to India?
While the 3-D printing sphere has mostly been dominated by North America and Europe, countries like India and China are beginning to innovate and research in the field owing to its vast potential and the accessible nature of additive manufacturing technology. With various industries set to gain if the 3D printing market proliferates in India such as healthcare, education and the automobile industry, it only makes sense to research and tap into its potential. In fact according to market intelligence solutions firm 6Wresearch, India’s 3-D printing and manufacturing market is expected to hit $62 million by the year 2022, which gives more than a slight hint as to its possibility for expansive growth. Decreasing costs of industrial printers combined with greater efficiency have also done their bit in aiding growth in the subcontinent. With the increase of various startups promoting the use of 3-D printing, the concept is growing in the Indian market where not just manufacturers, but also local assemblers and distributors can benefit from its potential. The main leaders in this prototyping industry in India so far are Altem Technologies, Imaginarium, and Novabeans Prototyping.
How is 3-D printing utilised in different industries?
3-D printing is being used to build prosthetics, implants and identical organ replicas, which is a huge plus for the medicine industry. In fact even the 3-D printing of human organs has come into being which is a huge boost for the medical industry. This is arguably its most important use.
3-D printing enables students to build models and prototypes without the use of expensive tools. By designing their own models, students can learn comprehensively in different topics such as robotics, chemistry and architecture. Recently, a school in Rotterdam 3-D printed a human ear as a training model for students.
Robotics and computers
Used to make laptops and computer parts, as well as open source robots, 3-D printing helps this industry too.
The automotive industry has been among the earlier proponents of 3-D printing. Functional parts which are used in engines and test vehicles are being built using this technology with not just 3-D printed supercars, but also buses coming into existence.
Apart from the above, 3-D printing is also used in the apparel industry, to make art, and in domestic appliances.