What Is the Future of 3D Printing?

Are we headed for a time when 3D printing can produce a world, West or otherwise, populated by lifelike androids? Maybe not, but 3D printing has certainly led to groundbreaking medical innovations, and is likely to do the same for other industries in the years to come. According to the Wohlers Report, the market for 3D printing surpassed $5.1 billion last year. As exploration of the potential of 3D printing (additive manufacturing) continues, that figure could grow.

Advanced research in additive manufacturing
New materials offer the opportunity for development in additive design. These are five promising examples:

  • Ultrathin platinum: Useful for reducing the cost of hydrogen fuel cells
  • Mega magnets: Suitable for the production of smaller, lighter motors
  • Designer nanocrystals: Valuable for use in harvesting solar energy and delivering quantum computing
  • Electric ink: Effective for display screens, sensors, and batteries
  • Fungal foam: A biodegradable alternative to plastic foams

Military applications
The U.S. Navy has also been exploring the value of additive manufacturing. On board a ship, a 3D printer can be used to make repairs quickly and cost effectively. Per 3ders.org, a metal 3D printer was installed on the USS Essex in 2014, with two similar ones set up on the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and on the USS Kearsarge late last year.

Learning about the fundamentals of—and breakthroughs in—additive manufacturing is critical for engineering students interested in contributing to ongoing innovation. In an interview with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, industry experts described how a trained workforce able to apply the scientific method to innovation is essential to the next generation of breakthroughs in additive manufacturing.

Trade-offs in engineering
The future of 3D printing is rooted in engineering design, which usually requires trade-offs. For instance, gaining one property, such as tensile strength, can come at the expense of losing another, such as flexibility. Engineering students need to understand these concepts in order to be successful innovators in additive manufacturing. One effective way to foster that understanding is by using AccessEngineering’s DataVis, the interactive data visualization tool that transforms the way students learn about material properties. Try it out here and check out this video to find out more about how DataVis helps students visualize key concepts in materials science and engineering.

Tags: , , , ,