Pushing the envelope of 3D printers to turn them into true production tools

This article appeared in the  July–August 2018 issue of Reinforced Plastics. Log in to your free materialstoday.com profile to access the article.

The 3D printer has already matured into a useful and versatile tool for making models, mock-ups and prototypes. But researchers, engineers and designers are working hard to eliminate the limitations of 3D-printing and take the next step. The goal is to take the machine out of the lab and into the factory, from rapid prototyping to additive manufacturing. Reinforced Plastics talks to people on this new frontier, pushing out the boundaries of 3D printing.

The 3D printer has proven its value in turning designs into actual objects without needing a craftsman. All you need is a CAD-system and a good engineer who can turn your ideas into printable designs.

However, objects printed by 3D printers are mostly still limited to models, prototypes and toys due to the limitations of 3D-printing technology. Depending on the type of 3D printer, only relatively small, low-strength and low-resolution objects can be printed. The range of materials and material mixes that can be printed, is limited. And the process should be faster and cheaper for it to be viable in a factory environment, making end-user products in a way that can compete or coexist with traditional manufacturing techniques.

One of the companies, working on the frontier of 3D printing, expanding its applications, is “3D robot printing”.

This article appeared in the  July–August 2018 issue of Reinforced Plastics.