Dec 1, 2017

A briefing paper today published by members of the Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering (IMSE) at Imperial College London outlined their predictions about future opportunities for 3D printing technology, particularly related to Imperial’s work.

The paper – ‘The value of additive manufacturing: future opportunities’ – outlines how the combination of molecular science and engineering could help overcome current challenges in 3D printing to make it faster, cheaper and more consistent.

photo: © Imperial College London.

“The ability to create complex 3D objects, without the need for specific tooling, has paved the way for the rapid development of AM.” says Dr Billy Wu, co-author of the paper and Lecturer at the Dyson School of Design Engineering. “3D printing is becoming an increasingly important manufacturing technique for medical, aerospace and motorsport applications.”

However, the uptake of AM technologies in many other industries is still limited by barriers such as the high cost of Additive Manufacturing machines and materials, as well as lengthy overall 3D-printing processes. In addition, there are still fundamental technological challenges that need to be addressed before AM can be more widely adopted. For instance, the industry needs better design software, more consistency in quality assurance practices, better intellectual property protection and more suitably trained personnel.

photo: © Imperial College London.

According to the paper, the use of the molecular science and engineering approach can also help overcome some of the challenges and allow more-effective translation of research into industrial applications.

Some of the ongoing AM-based research carried out at Imperial includes the development of multifunctional AM lattice structures, which could ultimately be used in large civil engineering projects. The aim of this project is to fabricate devices such as pipes and cables that have other features built into them such as pipes that can also double up as a conduit for electronics.

Imperial researchers are also investigating ways of improving how metals are used in the 3D printing process. For example, they are looking into ways of optimising printed components through a better understanding of the structural complexity at the molecular scale. Researchers are also attempting to develop a low-cost electrochemical AM printing method that does not involve the use of lasers, which could be used to produce large-scale, high-quality multi-material parts.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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