The perfect “imperfection” of 3D printing

- 16 September, 2023
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In recent years, 3D printing has proven to be one of the most important trends in industry 4.0. Three-dimensional printing is revolutionizing all sectors. An agile and flexible technology that drives digital transformation and promotes sustainable practices.

According to the report made by Ultimaker, “3D Printing Sentiment Index 2021”, 3D printing is increasingly recognized by organizations, since 54% of companies surveyed (12 countries) say that this technology will become a priority when it comes to investing throughout the following years. In addition, the percentage of companies that use 3D printing has increased, growing to 39%, about four percentage points more than in 2020.

“Investment in 3D will increase throughout the following years”

As if it were a Greek sculpture, between proportion and balance, the result of 3D printing makes this technology rise as the new creator, capable of printing both perfection and the desired imperfection. The new Michelangelo has arrived. Virtually in the not too distant future, with information in a digital file, you can print anything you can think of and turn it into a tangible object in a matter of hours and any imperfection will be the fault of human imperfection.

According to the well-known Gartner curve, which represents the maturity, adoption and commercial application of a technology, 3D printing has reached maturity very quickly. And it is that there are already many industries that are choosing to use professional industrial 3D printers, among which we have to highlight: 3D printing in medicine, in points of sale and in supply chains.

This type of printing has many significant advantages over traditional manufacturing methods because it helps the industry reduce costs (especially in small production runs it is the most cost-effective option), increase productivity, and change the way new ideas are tested. Flexibility in the process is the key in the development of many products at an industrial level until a perfect model is found and ready to be industrialized.

One point to highlight, within flexibility, is the great responsiveness of 3D when faced with the need to massively customize some products. In addition, print on demand will be able to reduce both a company’s inventory and its warehouse, which allows a reflection on business models and the options it brings to supply chains. Large surfaces disappear because a 3D print with the same mechanical and physical characteristics can be made anywhere.

It also has a potential market in the reproduction and manufacture of spare parts, that is, intended for parts of products that are no longer manufactured or when the manufacturer has a very small stock.

The automotive sector, Toyota, has created scale engine models for vehicles, being able to print pistons, a crankshaft or valves, and Volkswagen, for example, going beyond mere 3D printing for those famous prototypes that dazzle us in salons of the automobile, sees the manufacture of parts for its classic vehicles as a potential market.

Although we have seen solutions that are a reality, there are also tests underway to further accelerate and refine the 3D world. Although still in testing, the “meta-bots”, named after their creators at the University of California, are a new army of mini robots, which can be launched as soon as their printing process is complete. Currently, their size is similar to that of a coin but they are designed to scale them and make it the new way of manufacturing AGVs / AMRs.

Once this technology has been modeled and addressed, we leave you to reflect on the subject of the materials used in printing. Because the ideal of aesthetics and contemporary digital perfection has been reached, the result of the union of research and the “imperfections” already designed, the intrinsic characteristics of the materials become a fundamental component for the work.

Will imperfect humanity be able to manufacture perfection? Or will artificial intelligence lead us to that perfect design and impression?

“The least you can asked for a sculpture is that it doesn´t move.” — Salvador Dalí

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