Introduction to 3D Manufacturing
3D Manufacturing is the production of a physical object from a digital design. This technology has been in use for over thirty years, but has been improved and matured to the stage that we now stand at the beginning of another industrial revolution. Today’s machines can make objects from almost any material including plastic, nylon, carbon fibre, glass, steel, ceramics, aluminium and titanium.
3D Manufacturing is used by a range of sectors including:
Medical It is being used within the health care sector to make prosthetic limbs, custom hearing aids (over 12 million are in use) and dental applications. More complex structures such as human tissue are now being manufactured.
Construction The University of Southern California is developing a machine than can build a house in less than a day. A Chinese company has printed 10 houses in a day using recycled materials.
Automotive Motor vehicles have already been produced with this technology however car parts, especially prototypes and replacement parts that are no longer available are being produced. At the 2014 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago, US car maker, Local Motors, built the world’s first 3D printed electric car on the floor with printing only taking 44 hours.
…as well as in aerospace, defence, agriculture, education, archaeology, chemistry, design, nanotechnology and many other sectors.
Computers were in use before the end of World War II but the economic boom from the technology came once they were no longer confined to computer rooms and became available to SMEs, and individuals.
This is the stage we are at with 3D Fabricators. They are no longer confined to factories and advanced manufacturing firms.
Microsoft included support for 3D printers in Windows 8.1.
It is reasonable to expect that goods will be manufactured closer to their point of purchase or consumption saving on transportation, storage and handling costs.
We will see some manufacturing done at the household level.
The costs of shipping handling and storage make the spread of this technology even more appealing economically in regional, rural and remote communities.
Instead of cars being made by a few hundred factories across the globe we should see an explosion of new auto makers.
Parts could be produced at the repairers or local engineering shops, eliminating the need for supply chain management by making components as needed.
Many products will become customised.
There is less waste in 3d manufacturing.
There will be more recycling right down to the household level. Inexpensive machines that recycle food and drink containers into filament for use in 3d printers are already available.
3D manufacturing offers reductions in energy consumption and CO2 emissions and will give us a more environment friendly manufacturing industry.
Around the Globe
China The Chinese government has established and funded the Asian Manufacturing Association (AMA) to promote additive manufacturing technology via ten innovation institutes. Each one provided $3.3 million of investment. China has invested in large scale industrial machines and are exploring the printing of planes.
Germany The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in Germany is one of the world’s major international research organizations. There are 67 Fraunhofer institutes focused on innovation in technology and manufacturing.
UK 3D printing has been added to the curriculum of all schools within the UK. The Government is investing L15 million to set up a national centre for 3D printing technology.
United States In 2012, the US Government established the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII), the first of 15 advanced manufacturing institutes. In its launch President Obama said, “This institute will help make sure that the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow take root not in places like China or India, but right here in the United States of America. That’s how we’ll put more people back to work and build an economy that lasts.”
This initiative was part of a billion dollar plan to revitalise American manufacturing. It includes, tax incentives to encourage manufacturers to invest in the US, investment in training, elimination of tax breaks for manufacturing firms that move jobs overseas, and investment in infrastructure needed by manufacturers.
Manufacturing is estimated to account for 17% ($US 10.2 trillion) of the global economy ($US 60 trillion). Australian manufacturing sits at approximately $100 billion.
It has been estimated that each dollar worth of manufactured goods provides another $1.43 of contribution to other sectors. The highest multiplier of any sector.
In Australia, manufacturing’s contribution as a percentage of GDP has more than halved since 1974.
It is estimated that the cost of a made-in-China product to the consumer is 3 to 10 times the factory price due to the associated waste in the supply chain. Added to the costs of shipping, storage and handling it is clear that a lot manufacturing will shift from the mass production model.
Reductions in the costs of developing new products will give smaller companies the ability to compete effectively against large companies.
3D Manufacturing provides Australia the opportunity to capitalise on our position as a resource rich nation and re-invigorate our manufacturing sector.