3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process for making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many successive thin layers of a material. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.
The worldwide 3D printing industry is expected to grow $12.8Billion by 2018, and exceed $21Billion by 2020 in revenue.
The areas where 3D printing has proven to be immensely advantageous are:
Medical science is exploiting this technology at an extremely rapid pace. With the advent of this technology, patients around the world are able to experience improved quality of 3D printed implants and prosthetics like never before.
3D bio printing of human tissue has been around since 1990s. But of late, the development and the implementation of this technology in medical sciences scientists are making a shift from printing tiny sheets of tissue to entire 3D organs. Layers of living cells are deposited onto a gel medium and slowly built up to form three dimensional structures by using inkjet techniques.
Aerospace & aviation industries
The developments in the metal additive manufacturing sector has largely boosted the utilization of 3D printing technology in the aerospace and aviation industries.
NASA for example prints combustion chamber liners using selective laser melting and as of march 2015 the FAA cleared GE Aviation’s first 3D printed jet engine part to fly: a laser sintered housing for a compressor inlet temperature sensor.
Despite the fact that the automotive industry was among the earliest adopters of 3D printing, it has for decades relegated 3d printing technology to low volume prototyping applications.
These days, the use of 3D printing in automotive is evolving from relatively simple concept models for fit and finish checks and design verification, to functional parts that are used in test vehicles, engines, and platforms. It is expected that 3D printing in the automotive industry will generate a combined $1.1 billion dollars by 2019.
This technology is used to create prototype designs for traditional manufacturing and research purposes, which is called Rapid Prototyping.
3D printing allows ideas to develop faster than ever. Being able to 3D print a concept, shrinks the development process, helping companies stay one step ahead of the competition. Prototyping injection mold tools and production runs are expensive investments. The 3D printing process allows the creation of parts and/or tools through additive manufacturing at rates much lower than traditional machining.
Similarly, Rapid Manufacturing is a method of manufacturing where companies use 3D printers for short run custom manufacturing. In this process of manufacturing, the printed objects are not prototypes but the actual end user product.
Watch this video to see the impact of 3D print technology in architecture.
3D printing holds immense potential to translate imagination into reality. Given the boom in digital art and design, we can now 3D print almost anything we imagine after drawing it up virtually. Hobbyists and enthusiasts can exploit the technology to add multiple dimensions to their idea and concepts.
The way forward
Given the huge bank of opportunities in this sector and the rapid development of this technology, we can say with a sense of certitude that 3D printing will soon take over many more industries in the near future. Considering the prediction, startups and entrepreneurs in India are seeing immense potential in 3D printing technologies. To name a few, following is a list of Indian startups which are playing in this avenue:
think3D, Brahma3, Global 3D Labs, Fractal Works, ShaperJet and 3Dify, among many others.