3D printing is rapidly gaining prominence with advances in materials and methods that happen all the time. But is it enough prepared to help manufacturing companies get an upper edge in a competition?
To get a snapshot of the concept of 3D Printing, her is a snapshot of an interview with Kent Firestone, COO of Stratasys Direct Manufacturing.
The questions that often come to our mind are: What are the biggest challenges for a 3D printer company? Bringing down the expense of 3D printers? How to improve the capabilities of their offerings? How to make 3D printers huge and durable, and perhaps fast, to handle more than low-production/prototype manufacturing? Are there any magic tips or new technologies that could unlock many of these at once?
In reference, Kent Firestone, COO of Stratasys Direct Manufacturing said that there are many parallels between the biggest challenges facing 3D-printing companies and those facing 3D-printing users. And since it’s their job to ensure that their projects are successful, the challenges are their challenges. The speed of production and accuracy in design must also be in the customers’ radar.
There are no magic to address the challenges, solutions that lower the barriers and push the industry forward are being developed continuously. Lowering costs will make 3D printing a more approachable and economical manufacturing option for companies. And as the technology has been used to design production parts, the continuous development of machines indicates producing repeatable parts at a faster pace will be a reality.
Another thing that comes to mind is does the industry need more standards on hardware and software to make easy implementations and more transparent for users? And if so, in which areas the standards first take a start? And who must take the lead in setting the standards?
To this Firestone answered that users want to know what processes and practices will help them achieve high-quality parts, so establishing standards is a key in the industry for its evolution.
ASTM International is playing a greater role in establishing standards. The organization collaborated with the Rapid Technologies and Additive Manufacturing (RTAM) to initiate the Committee F42 on Additive Manufacturing Technologies in 2009.
Developing standards for production parts is a next big step, because they need a level of standardization. Initially, success would be defined by vendors, but now ASTM is helping develop standard and test methods and carry out improvements to help companies and users work under static 3D-printing guidelines.
There is another question as what tasks would 3D printing handling for manufacturers 10 years from now? What could be the hurdles on the part of 3D-printer companies and on the part of manufacturers?
Firestone said that from now ten years, 3D printing would be an even more integral part of manufacturers’ production process.
The hurdles include equipment and material expenses, speed of production, material options, standardization, etc. He said that could see a glimpse of what technologies and capabilities are down the road with the debut of Stratasys’ Robotic-Composite and Infinite Build 3D Demonstrators along with others like Carbon.
It’s not easy to say where the industry will be 20 years down the lane, on the basis of how much has changed in the past few years. But it could be well visualised that 3D printing would take on a more prominent production role in the manufacturing world, especifically when it comes to high-volume runs of production parts.
Is 3D printing an important technology that must be taught in an engineering college? And if so, what courses should be eliminated to substitute for 3D printing?
Firestone said that 3D-printing coursework definitely has a place in the engineering colleges. Being a rapidly growing and evolving technology for the future, it needs an inclusion in the degree curriculum. But to include 3D printing in college course, you must not eliminate something else from the curriculums.
What’s the biggest misconception about 3D printing?
Firestone said that the biggest misconception is that 3D printing can’t yield functional parts.Some companies have an “all or nothing” view of 3D printing. Others say it is off as a prototyping process and design box. With either of those notions, will not well prepare companies to maximize 3D printing.
Is there anything else that engineers must know about the technology?
Firestone replied that while considering 3D printing, engineers must look beyond prototyping. There are several advantages for those applications but there are circumstances where 3D printing can be used where they have not been considered earlier. Jigs, tools, fixtures, and assembly components are the applications where making use of 3D printing can help and benefit the engineers.
Firestone suggested that engineers mustn’t view 3D printing through an “all or nothing” view. Using this technology makes sense and can result in certain major benefits.
With this I conclude. To know more, keep visiting this space.
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