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Advancement of 3D printing in the industry

by Amro Shanshal | July 18, 2018

In the past two decades, 3D printing has been evolving rapidly due to its advantages over conventional manufacturing methods. Massive amounts of funding and research have been put into discovering ways to make the 3D printing process faster and cheaper. A large number of companies across many markets are either investing in the technology, or securing partnerships to open research centers for 3D printing development.

Burloak Technologies invested 104 million dollars into its new 40,000 square foot Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence in Ontario, Canada. The company is looking into shifting its current operations to the new 3D printing facility, and this decision is primarily because their biggest market is aerospace. The use of 3D printing in the aerospace and automobile industry has been increasing over the past couple decades, mainly due to a great strength to weight ratio, and single step manufacturing process associated with 3D printed parts. Recently, Ford purchased two Impossible Objects Model One 3D printing machines to be used by the company for research and development. Model One machine uses a range of composite materials and has won several industry awards due to its unique part materials and manufacturing process. New Additive manufacturing (AM) machines and materials can be part of the research centers that are opening in various parts of the world. Research centers accelerate research and innovation within AM, and can be one of the reasons for growing AM globally.

Z3DFAB, a South Korean company that specializes in industrial metal additive manufacturing, signed an agreement with EOS (a German company) to construct an Additive Manufacturing innovation centre in Korea. The motivation for this deal was to offer solutions using advanced AM technologies, and expand the use of local AM, to compete with the already developed AM Chinese market. As part of the deal, Z3DFAB purchased multiple AM machines from EOS to be installed in the new innovation center.

In the aircraft industry, Oerlikon, a Swiss company signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the German company Lufthansa Technik to establish sturdy and eminent process for AM in the aircraft industry. The agreement is believed to move AM one step ahead in the aircraft industry, and save costs on manufacturing, post processing, storage and supply chain management. Industrializing AM is not limited to research centers and investors, innovation awards can also play an important role in the process. Innovation awards reward businesses based on their overall excellence. Having these awards give a chance to businesses to be innovative and be on the outlook to creating new solutions.

Frost & Sullivan’s Best Practices Awards recognizes companies for their excellence in leadership, technological innovation, customer service and strategic product development across a spectrum of regional and global markets. XJet, an Israeli company received a Technology Innovation Award from Frost & Sullivan for their NanoParticle Jetting technology for ceramic and metal AM. Believed to benefit the automotive, aerospace and robotics industries, XJet AM systems are highly scalable, require minimal operational training, and omits the use of high energy lasers and fine metal powders which minimize safety concerns.

For many, additive manufacturing still raises concerns, due to its operational difficulties and incapability of competing with the conventional manufacturing mass production techniques. However, AM has come a long way since it was implemented, and given its sophisticated production method, many industries are investing in the technology. The advancements of AM are occurring globally across a large scope of markets, and investors look forward to a promising Return On Investment (ROI). Given the funding, and support for this technology, will AM ever conquer conventional manufacturing techniques? If so, how many decades will it take for AM parts to dominate the markets? The answers to these valuable questions depend on how successful the AM research is, and if investors continue to invest money on startups and innovation centers to raise the chances of innovation and development.

[1] “Z3DFAB Partners with EOS on Korean Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre.” Metal Additive Manufacturing, 16 July 2018, www.metal-am.com/z3dfab-partners-with-eos-on-korean-additive-manufacturing-innovation-centre/.

[2] “Oerlikon and Lufthansa Technik Partner to Integrate AM into Maintenance and Repair of Civil Aircraft.” Metal Additive Manufacturing, 13 July 2018, www.metal-am.com/oerlikon-and-lufthansa-technik-partner-to-integrate-am-into-maintenance-and-repair-of-civil-aircraft/.

[3] Kvernvik, Marthe. “Burloak Technologies to Open Additive Manufacturing Centre in Ontario, Canada.” TCT Magazine, 30 May 2018, www.tctmagazine.com/3d-printing-news/Burloak-Technologies-open-additive-manufacturing-centre/.

[4] “XJet's NanoParticle Jetting Receives Technology Innovation Award.” Metal Additive Manufacturing, 6 July 2018, www.metal-am.com/xjets-nanoparticle-jetting-receives-technology-innovation-award/.

[5] Francis, Scott. “Ford to Use 3D Printers from Impossible Objects.” CompositesWorld, CompositesWorld, 30 Apr. 2018, www.compositesworld.com/news/ford-to-use-3d-printers-from-impossible-objects.

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