3D printing is proving to be a transformational tool for the fresh players of the new space race. Iteration cycles for the aerospace industry are notoriously long: 3D printing enables the development of aerospace parts to be cut from months to just a few weeks. This is a boost for newcomers, shortening time to launch and enabling faster competitiveness in the global race. The rapid pace of technological change is forcing everyone to quickly adapt to new trends. These new companies are also the most pliable to changes to the supply chain, which will be stressed to accommodate new needs and technologies. It’s hard to predict future business opportunities, but new avenues of exploration are being researched through 3D printing. In-situ resource utilization is of great interest for any habitat, tool or even medical need future astronauts might have.
How additive manufacturing helped launch SpaceX
SpaceX has been using AM increasingly in its production to optimise processes and produce parts that aren’t possible with conventional manufacturing methods. SpaceX has been continuously evaluating the benefits of 3D printing and perfecting the techniques required to develop and manufacture flight hardware. With innovation and efficiency at the core of SpaceX, it’s no wonder its been one of the first companies in the sector to embrace AM as a major part of its production.
Supply chain expands to meet demand for 3D-printed space parts
It’s not clear whether the additive manufacturing supply chain will expand rapidly enough to meet growing demand for 3D-printed parts for spacecraft or launch vehicles. When companies are starting out, it’s easy for them to turn to additive manufacturing service providers for a few parts, said Scott Killian, aerospace business development manager for EOS North America.
“Once companies move into production, they’re going to have to figure out whether the supply chain can still meet their needs,” he added. “There’s a lot of ebb and flow right now on getting that supply chain to ramp up.”
Scientists 3D-print human skin and bone for Mars astronauts
The European Space Agency’s 3D Printing of Living Tissue for Space Exploration project aims to print human tissue to help injured astronauts heal when they’re far, far away from Earth. Scientists from the University Hospital of Dresden Technical University in Germany bio-printed skin and bone samples upside down to help determine if the method could be used in a low-gravity environment. It worked. ESA released videos of the printing in action.
Small and medium businesses (SMBs) have advantages that big corporations don’t have. One of them is agility, to make business decisions and to move into new markets. This agility is being augmented by technologies like additive manufacturing, laying the groundwork for them to become the next giants of the manufacturing industry. For starters, the barriers to entry in the industry have drastically lowered as startups no longer need to invest on expensive, specialized machinery. However, data shows that SMBs are already readily investing in AM, which puts them in the optimal position of focusing on new, maybe niche markets and grow unaffected by big, established companies. Furthermore, AM gives them the ability to nimbly change their production planning and strategy based on the whims of the market, better gearing their products and services to what is selling the most.
How 3D Printing Is Empowering SMBs in Manufacturing’s Digital Transformation
Traditional manufacturing requires companies to invest in expensive molds before a single product can be produced. And once the mold is developed, large order commitments are required to achieve enough scale for products to be priced competitively in the market. This poses a challenge for any company; but for startups and small companies it’s often completely cost-prohibitive. 3D printing eliminates such costly barriers to entry by not requiring physical prerequisites like molds for production. In fact, products can be custom-produced directly from digital files, with 3D printing software able to identify potential design flaws or inconsistencies before the manufacturing process even starts. And the ability of service bureaus to print products on-demand eliminates the need for large manufacturing runs or the potential for excess inventory.
3D printing to be utilised by three quarters of Europe’s SMB’s by 2020
Following new research by Ricoh Europe, it has been revealed that almost three quarters of Europe’s small and medium sized businesses (SMB) believe that 3D printing technology is vital to reduce costs and improve agility. The research found that 44% of the 2,370 SMB leaders surveyed from 23 different countries have already invested in 3D printing with a further 30% planning to invest within the next two years. From the businesses that were surveyed, it was revealed that 70% of businesses are aiming to utilise 3D printing to introduce new manufacturing strategies and techniques.
How “Speed Factories” Help Companies Adapt to Capricious Consumers
Speed factories are a growing trend among consumer-goods businesses, and one Jan Van Mieghem, professor of managerial economics and operations at Kellogg, has been researching. “More companies are focused on localization now, with custom-made products for very small local markets,” Van Mieghem says. Speed factories offer fast turnaround to meet demand in such markets, but they often have higher production costs.
We’ve heard so much buzz about how AM is poised to be the end-all be-all manufacturing technology. Alas, there are many things that it still can’t quite achieve and that is where we take a step back and either make do with what we have or invent our way into the unexplored. For example, very small-scale 3D printing is not yet deemed at high enough resolution for certain medical applications and doesn’t allow for the level of manufacturing flexibility it would require: that’s when MIT designed a new layer-based manufacturing method capable of overcoming AM’s shortcomings. Some other times it’s just a matter of resources, where AM is the pricier alternative, albeit unmatched in some cases. Arup has shown that AM can become a facilitator of older techniques like casting, providing complex shapes in the form of sand molds, chopping away at the expenses of direct metal printing. Likewise, hybrid manufacturing is giving businesses the flexibility to choose the most beneficial production method depending on the design and final use. More and more we are seeing the rise of big manufacturing power-machines, like the latest Fraunhofer/CMS 5 axis brainchild.
3D Fabrication Technique Allows for Multiple Vaccinations in Single Injection
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a 3D fabrication technique that would allow multiple doses of a drug or vaccine to be delivered to a patient over an extended period of time. According to research scientist Ana Jaklenec, they were unable to create these structures using current 3D printing methods. Instead, the team used a new method called SEAL (StampEd Assembly of polymer Layers).
Arup Develops Affordable 3D-Printing Sand Casts for Complex Steel Structural Elements
Working with the Anglo-Dutch company 3Dealise, Arup 3D-printed sand molds are used in the traditional casting process to create sophisticated, unique structural steel nodes as a certified material. Sand printing offers a quick technique that can reuse the materials and allows costs to be kept low.
Fraunhofer IWU And CMD Partner To Make Mega 5 Axis 3D Printer Hybrid
The Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology (Fraunhofer IWU) in Chemnitz, Germany, has entered into a partnership with Italian machine center makers CMS to research and develop a new hybrid CNC milling 3D printer. Operating beyond the bounds of typical XYZ directional 3D printers, the named CMS Kreator is capable of tool paths across 5 axis, bringing more freedom to the possibilities of FDM.