New 3D printing technology unveiled this week sharply increases the size of objects that can be produced, offering new possibilities to remake manufacturing in the auto, aerospace, and other major industries.
One application demonstrated by 3D printing machinery maker Stratasys would allow airlines to pick made-to-order airplane interiors that could be tweaked with the click of a mouse. By turning the manufacturing plane vertical from the standard horizontal, the “printer” has the potential to create components of unlimited size.
“We’re now talking about parts in feet and meters versus centimeters and inches,” said Rich Garrity, Americas president for Stratasys. “It’s not just a concept.”
The advances, by Stratasys, Siemens and others, are beginning to push 3D printing well into the center of manufacturing from around the edges. 3D printing employs sophisticated computer simulations and software to direct “print” objects from powdered, molten and filament materials like nylon, resins, clays, thermoplastics and metals. The technology has not always lived up to the sky-high hype, but leading manufacturers remain bullish over its potential to shake up the factory floor.
“These technologies all evolve so fast,” said Andreas Saar, a vice president for additive manufacturing at Siemens. “We believe if people don’t connect, they’re going to have a huge problem,” he told AFP.