Mar.6, 2013

In January Belgium-based company Materialise showcased a foldable chair which is printed in one piece and made with the hinges already joined together. 3D printing removes the limitations of the manufacturing process, designers are free to create any type of complex shape in the computer. Using 3D printer these creations can all be transformed into real objects.

Today in an article on Reuters Ben Deighton writes "the real revolution will come when designers start to rethink the shapes of objects."

To really start using the technology to its full potential, designers and engineers need to imagine new products.


"You are almost unlimited as to the type of geometric complexity," said Terry Wohlers, an independent analyst who advises companies on the 3D printing sector.


"You can do shapes and forms that otherwise would be very expensive to do with traditional manufacturing, or would require many parts that then are later assembled," Wohlers said.

For the last 25 years 3D printing has been used mainly for making prototypes. Only now 3D printing is making its way into real production. But Materialise CEO Wilfried Vancraen, says the process is still too slow and too expensive to replace most mass market manufacturing - at least as we now know it.

So in which area 3D printing has the most impact? In fields such as medicine and furniture and clothing design 3D printing has been widely used. Over 90 percent of in-the-ear hearing aids are made using 3D printing. Using graphics software designers could easily modify the shape and improve the design.

"Any part that requires some structural integrity, you can let mathematics decide where to put the material," says Wohlers. "Any part that requires some structural integrity, you can let mathematics decide where to put the material."


"Some printers allow now to mix different materials with different material properties: hard, soft, different densities crossing through one piece," said Vancraen.


"That is the most unexplored (characteristic), but also the most difficult to really use well."


He believes that as the new uses emerge, the manufacturing applications of 3D printing will continue to grow, eventually being worth 10, 20 or 30 percent of the manufacturing industry.

Check out below some special 3D prints seen at the Belgian company Materialise.

(Images credit: | Jie Zhang)

Read the full article "Rethinking objects and form are key to 3D printing revolution" here.







Posted in 3D Printing Services

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