3D Printing: An Industrial Revolution
3D printing is on the forefront of revolutionary technologies that can change the landscape of technology and manufacturing. It is said that with the advancements being made in 3D printing technologies, that manufacturing and craftsmanship is being brought back to the hands of the people where anyone with a 3D printer could manufacture anything at their own leisure. This is especially convenient for consumers who wish to replace a product they have broken and not have to deal with contacting the manufacturer, waiting for the specs, and being told you have to buy a certain amount for it to be profitable for them.
Although the technology is still in its early stages it has shown a great deal of promise in the social manufacturing field in the past with the key being consumer convenience as I stated earlier with manufacturing and craftsmanship being brought back to the hands of the people. One of the key terms in the 3D printing field is Additive Manufacturing which is defined as the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data and it is usually layer upon layer as opposed to Subtractive Manufacturing which is what it sounds like ; removing layer upon layer.
This allows designers to create complex parts at a fraction of the cost and time of standard means like forging, molding, or sculpting all examples of subtractive manufacturing. Carrying this idea forward this process is what gives 3D printing its namesake and what has hackers and makers raving the way the printers work is first the user would need to create a blueprint of their desired 3D print using modelling software such as Tinker cad or Shape ways.
Once that step is done the user can send it to the printer, the printer receives the data and will use whatever material being used usually some type of plastic since it melts easily and deposits it onto a plate where it will cool instantly. However, the class of materials that can be used on a 3D printer is limited as there are materials that cannot be used yet to 3D print mainly because it cannot be melted to be used by the printer such as certain metals or ceramics. The object will be created using layering where the printer will add one layer at a time until you have a finished 3D structure. With the use of certain materials, the users of the technology have been able to achieve and create amazing feats such as being able to make 3D printed food or edibles which has also started to become a popular.
The 3D printing revolution has also made its emergence in the medical field; One of the spectacular things a 3D printer can do is print a fully functioning kidney that can match a patients cells and be transplanted, something like this can bridge the gap for those who are on long waiting lists for available organs for transplant which could save their lives and many do not make that waiting time because no donors or matches could be found in time. In a ted talk presented by Anthony Atala , the surgeon demonstrates how an early-stage experiment could someday solve the organ-donor problem using a 3D printer that uses living cells to output a transplantable kidney(Atala 2011).
Using similar technology, Dr. Atala’s young patient Luke Massella received an engineered bladder 10 years ago. This was only achievable after 20 years of experimenting, trials and errors because the problem was they initially could not get the body to produce enough cells outside of the body and there are still cells that to this day they have not been able to such as liver, pancreatic and nerve cells (Atala 2011). However with cells they have been able to produce and control they have been able to use those biomaterials to weave and knit them to produce a fully functioning kidney for the patient in need and help him live a longer and healthy life.
In other 3D printing and science news, researches at the Georgia Institute of technology have created a one-step approach to creating complex origami structures by merging the ancient craft of origami and 21st century technology. These lightweight structures have strength and expandability that can have applications in everything from biomedical devices to equipment used in space exploration (Thompson 2018).
According to the article on Science Daily “The researchers used a relatively new kind of 3D printing called Digital Light Processing (DLP) to create groundbreaking origami structures that are not only capable of holding significant weight but can also be folded and refolded repeatedly in an action similar to the slow push and pull of an accordion” (Thompson 2018.) This has only been achievable as of late regardless of the technology being present for over 20 years because it has been difficult to create these 3D printed structures with the complex hollow features that are present in intricate origami design.
This was because it is difficult to remove the supporting materials necessary to print the structures and unlike paper the materials could not be folded several times without breaking however this was before the introduction of DLP which has been around but had only been commercialized about 5 years ago. With the usage of the recently commercialized DLP, new resin they developed and cured, and some creative engineering they created the origami structures that have been previously discussed.
All of the printed structures were subjected to tests that ”showed they were not only capable of carrying about 100 times the weight of the origami structure, but also could be repeatedly folded and unfolded without breaking. “I have a piece that I printed about six months ago that I demonstrate for people all the time, and it’s still fine, “said Qiang Zhang one of the lead researchers of the emerging field. (Thompson 2018). Qi states that next on the agenda is working to make printing easier than it currently is and exploring ways to print more materials with different properties as his team has been working on a new pattern so complex that they have not been able to print physically.
Since the creation of additive manufacturing in 1981 there have been many significant advances and innovation in the technology behind the process. Thanks to those advances, the speed and accuracy of the technology will soon become ready for commercialized and mainstream adoption. Many credible sources claim that a new era of consumer manufacturing is just around the corner and with good reason, the future is saying goodbye to ordering and waiting for things or pieces to whatever object we need. Instead we will fire up our domesticated 3D printer, give it a design file and have it within a few hours depending on how far the technology has advanced without ever leaving the comfort of our own home.
In the article on the Guardian Labs discussing the matter, Richard Hague, a professor of innovative manufacturing at the University of Nottingham, compares the current situation of 3D printers, with how the revolution has not happened due to the machines still being too fiddly to be commercialized, to the dotcom crash of the late 90s. “There were all these expectations about what the internet would do, and then it [the hype] disappeared,” he says.
“But quietly, in the background, people were forging ahead, and actually some major industries emerged after that point. I think that’s where we are now.”(Jefferies 2018) now we have seen what a big conglomerate the internet has become since then and it has barely been 20 years since it commercialization and it’s a big part of everyday life for majority of the population in todays society.
Furthermore the article discusses how in the past few years the issues that have been plaguing the 3D printing revolution have been slowly but surely fading away. This is due the availability of faster and cheaper machines as well as reliable and efficient that uses a wider range of materials for printing. Carrying this idea forward, Michael Todd, global head of innovation at Henkel a company that produces high performance materials for additive manufacturing, states that “This technology will impact pretty much every market sector we serve, whether it’s shoes, whether its clothes, automobile parts, aero plane parts, medical devices or electronics.”(Jefferies 2018).
There are already technology/3D printing Companies such as Carbon doing things like this, they had recently worked with Adidas to produce a line of Adidas shoes that feature a 3D printed midsole. Carbon also has their hands dipped in the dental market partnering with companies like Dentca and Dreve to create 3D printed removable artificial gums, dentures and even dental impression trays.
Going back to Michael Todd something interesting that he says in the article is that he envisions a future where one could walk into a shoe store and they are printed to his fitting at that moment “shoes are made on the spot for me. They fit better, there’s no logistics, there’s no inventory and, more importantly, no tooling has been created in order to create those shoes.” (Jefferies 2018).
Moving forward Chay Allen, rapid manufacturing manager at Renishaw, believes that “on-demand manufacturing will ultimately help to minimize obsolescence issues and reduce inventory costs and waste “this is good news for the manufacturing in America and may impact the economy in a positive and more efficient way, he continues forward by saying “I don’t think additive manufacturing is an emerging technology any more. I think it’s emerged, and people are using it – and using it successfully.” (Jefferies 2018).
The technology has been around for years and it’s only been as of late that we have begun to perfect it and make it more mainstream and available, for additive manufacturing the cost needs to drop further to gain more of a market share. With additive manufacturing becoming more widely available as well as the 3d printing revolution around the corner one has to think about how this could affect the market and the economy for consumers as well as manufacturers.
A study on Science Direct.com attempts to evaluate the dynamic service matching strategy for social manufacturing in a cloud environment. Social Manufacturing is a “social-cyber” complex system where the source of enterprise services is of sociality that exacerbates the diversity, uncertainty and dynamics of service supply. At the same time, users with independent decision making are able to continue self-adjusting and dynamically evolving according to environment changes.
This results in that the entire social manufacturing system is no longer static and fixed, but always dynamically changing. As a result, it is highly significant to realize the adaptive service supply–demand matching to maintain the sustainable development of social manufacturing. (Jun & Wang 2018)