Food, clothes, shelter, and water are some of the necessities for all humans to survive on Earth. So far, humans have taken these elements for granted, which is why we face a severe shortage in these resources today.
It is in solving this shortage problem that novel engineering techniques like additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) play a crucial role.
According to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), additive manufacturing is a process by which a 3D design fed using digital data is used to build a component layer by layer through the deposition of a material.
"Digital data" refers to the fact that you must first create the design using CAD software, convert into an STL file (the language the printer understands), and feed it into the printer. You can choose the material you want to manufacture the component. The printer uses a nozzle to extrude the material and deposit it in layers to create the final part.
Note that the term 3D printing is often used interchangeably with additive manufacturing, but it refers to a family of technologies (approximately 13-14 types) that do the same thing.
Today, the whole world has come to a standstill because of the COVID pandemic. 3D printing has contributed to battling the virus as it is being used in the manufacture of face shields and ventilator splitters.
With the large manufacturing plants shut down, innovators across the world have turned to 3D printing to create these types of medical equipment. India currently has around 80,000 ventilators but needs about 6 lakh of them to accommodate all the COVID patients. The ventilator splitter handles this issue by splitting the oxygen of one ventilator to two patients.
An entire house can be manufactured by 3D printing! A 3D-printed model saves you a significant amount of money and time because the labor is minimal, and the printing process is quite fast. In a developing country like India, housing for everyone is a real problem that needs to be solved quickly, which is why technologies like these are useful.
The other necessity that 3D printing can provide is food. You can manufacture a custom dish with the toppings and side-dishes you require using a 3D printer. So far, in India, only luxury hotels and restaurants are trying out this technique, but it is likely to pick up popularity soon.
Accidents happen all the time to different people, some of them life-threatening. In the case of disasters like fires where the victim needs skin replacement or some vehicle collision where the victim needs a body part to be replaced, 3D printing ("bio-printing" in this case) is the technique that researchers use to create those body parts.
One of the common uses of 3D printing is cornea replacement for the blind. With the ongoing research, 3D printed tissues, organs, and implants (especially customized aligners or dental implants as replacements for braces) are very likely to be a reality soon. This technology can help solve the issue of organ donation, which currently, for the most part, takes place only when the donor is dead.
3D printing was initially utilized only to manufacture specific components of the engine or the automobile body, but recently, engineers developed a car, Strati, that was entirely 3D-printed. In the future, 3D printing can offer owners the required vehicle customization in terms of power, appearance, color, and other parameters.
3D printing also finds application in the aerospace industry, where complicated engine parts are currently made using this technique. A metallic aerospace landing gear assembly is the largest 3D-printed component so far.
In this sector, the buy-to-fly ratio, i.e., the ratio of the weight of the initial raw material to the final weight of the product, should be as low as possible to minimize wastage. 3D printing has very little wastage because of its precise deposition and assembly process, thereby taking care of this aspect.
If you have ever used a printed circuit board (PCB), you will notice that it is an extremely complicated design with several intricate joints and bends. Today, a material called conductive ink (containing zinc oxide or silver nanoparticles) can be fed into the 3D printer to create the entire PCB design. Designing the fine geometries at the microscale is a revolution in engineering.
One of the biggest advantages of understanding the fundamentals of additive manufacturing is the customization of the design of any product that you design. For medical or automotive equipment, you may not always have the freedom to do this. However, for other items like furniture, collectibles, and utensils, you can choose the design and material of your choice.
The traditional way of manufacturing jewelry by pouring liquid metal in a wax mold is called the lost-wax process. With 3D printing, you can create a custom design for jewels and make them out of any material in a relatively short time.
In the manufacturing sector, 3D printing is one of the most advanced techniques developed thus far with enormous potential for future use as well. As mentioned earlier, effective use of 3D printing could solve several of the world's problems like hunger, homelessness, and medical emergencies.
A hands-on course detailing the introduction to additive manufacturing can help you develop your knowledge of 3D printing. If you wish to acquire the engineering skills necessary to master the art of product design and manufacturing, register today on Skill-Lync!
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