Although a lot of talk has been around robots and internet technology in manufacturing, 3D printing will have a big impact on the future of making and designing. 

Much of the focus in the technology world currently is on artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data – and how they will affect the way we use products and how machines operate. 

But developing just as quickly, although with slightly less hype, is 3D printing, or additive manufacturing (AM), which is going to have at least as big an impact on how we make things as AI et al. The process creates products by depositing layers of material, generally ground metal or plastic, to a template, lasering that material into place and repeating the process to build the required product – anything from replacement hips to jet engine parts. 

While much of the initial focus was on the consumer side, two recent stories illustrate the scope of 3D printing’s potential in industry – Computerworld reported that researchers at MIT have created 3D-printed graphene, the one-molecule-thick wonder material, to make a material that they say is “lighter than air” but 10 times as strong as steel. If it can be scaled up, it could help to lightweight products such as aircraft, cars and filtration devices, saving huge amounts of fuel, costs and carbon emissions.

 

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3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing, News