Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press over 600 years ago, but now, printing exists in a whole other dimension.
3 dimensional (3D) printing has been around since the mid-80s, mainly used for prototyping in industrial settings, but it has reached a level of technological maturity that is being used beyond prototyping to actually make functional parts used in reality including bespoke hearing aids, jewellery, and air ducts used in some aeroplanes.
In the works is the production of organs compatible with the human body; holding the potential to revolutionize organ transplants in the future. But right now, the value of 3D printing is currently being realised in the manufacturing world.
As the manufacturing environment becomes increasingly competitive, companies should seek to employ innovative systems that yield design optimisation and production efficiencies for their businesses.
Enter the limelight, 3D metal printing
3D metal printing or laser melting systems use high powered ytterbium fibre lasers to fuse fine metallic powders together to form functional 3D parts. Laser metal 3D printing systems provide an additive manufacturing process capable of producing dense metal parts direct from 3D CAD data for a variety of complex component applications and geometries of parts.
With cost reduction at the forefront of the minds of mining and manufacturing companies around the world, the ability to create specialised items for specific applications and from a wide range of metals satisfies the demands of an increased need for precision, speed and dependability, at the same time as reducing downtime.
Utilising a 3D printer enables the creation of unorthodox shapes to an exacting degree or accuracy, a game changer when it comes to reducing time and costs spent on small and large-scale projects worldwide.
Setting the 3D wheel in motion
The value of the design capacities of metal 3D printing was felt by a team designing a racing car in the Formula Student design competition recently. The team wanted to use titanium alloy to deliver a lightweight, high strength and corrosion resistant component to reduce the weight of their wheel carrier, but titanium is notoriously difficult to machine and cast using conventional methods.
Using Renishaw’s metal 3D printing system, the team was able to create a titanium lightweight wheel carrier for their racing car, reducing the overall weight of the car by 1.5kg and making it the lightest vehicle in the competition to date.