Exciting Future for Additive Manufacturing

March 29, 2017 3:19 pm
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posted within Technology Acceleration

Additive Manufacturing

Exciting Future for Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, is already transforming the way many products are manufactured.  AM works by “printing” a material onto a surface one layer at a time until the object is built in a three dimensional form.

Analysts are predicting tremendous growth in additive manufacturing.  The 2016 Wohler’s report estimates that the 3D printing market will reach $21 Billion by the year 2020.  This estimate is $10 Billion more than predicted two years ago.

Additive manufacturing does have its disadvantages.  Common machines print items one at a time, have slow printing speeds and the machines themselves can be cost prohibitive.  As the 3D printers become more sophisticated, speeds get faster, and new materials continue to be developed, we would expect the machines to become faster, better and more affordable.

AM provides many advantages.  Once you have the 3D printer, printing what you need can be very convenient.  Items can be produced as needed, with less waste, on your schedule, and without inventory.  It can also simplify the prototyping process and increase the ability to use complex designs that might not otherwise an option.  Companies can make prototypes without needing to purchase new tools, molds or large and expensive equipment.  Manufacturers can print over and over until they reach the perfect prototype.

The materials used in 3D printing have expanded from primarily plastics to a vast list of metals, polymers, silicon, concrete, and now even human cells.


Graphene is one materials that is getting a lot of attention right now.  It is being referred to as the wonder material.  Graphene is extremely strong, conductive, flexible and transparent.  Just imagine the possibilities.  Using graphene with additive manufacturing could generate innovation that seemed completely impossible until recently.


New uses for additive manufacturing are being introduced regularly.  Have you heard of Bioprinting?

Bioprinting is the process of using additive manufacturing to print living cells in order to create tissue that can then be used in human bodies.  Just this week “Swedish researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and Sahlgrenska Academy have successfully induced human cartilage cells to live and grow in an animal model, using 3D bioprinting.  The results will move development closer to a potential future in which it will be possible to help patients by giving them new body parts through 3D bioprinting.”  Future predictions envision the ability to 3D print organs using the patient’s own stem cells.  Talk about printing complex parts!

4D Printing

Have you heard of 4D printing?  4D printing uses the same process as 3D printing but utilizes materials that contain programming.  This “smart ink” material contains programming data that can send messages to the 3D printed item giving directions to change its shape after being printed.  It will be possible for a product to contain programming to assemble and even repair themselves based on data that was included in the material when they were originally printed.