Valve World has recently met several people keen to talk up the merits of 3D printing. What initially seemed to be a play-thing for nerds is, they say, fast becoming a practical tool for various industries.
By David Sear
To repeat a compelling example that was told to this editor – suppose a man comes to fix your washing machine, and discovers that a specific component has broken. He doesn’t have one in his van, and it will take a couple of weeks to be shipped from the manufacturer. Who, of course, is located on the other side of the globe. Fortunately, a quicker option is available ….. the friendly repairman simply downloads the appropriate code from an internet database and feeds it into his portable 3D printer. In less time than it takes to drink a mug of coffee, the part has been printed and is ready to install. Job done.
Now plastic parts for domestic use might be one thing, but how about metallic item robust enough for industry? Well, since 2010 NASA has been researching the possibility to implement a printing process that transitions from one metal or alloy to another in a single object, as my colleague Anne Cunningham reported in the September issue of Valve World magazine. In her article “3D printing travels above and beyond”, Anne indicates that NASA engineers are looking to take the 3D printing process a step further, and create custom objects with the properties of multiple metals.
In addition, the 3D printing industry is currently doing a lot of research into printing with metals and especially stainless steels, according to Marc den Held (NextStep 3D) in a recent video interview. He also notes that 3D printing has caught the eye of the airline industry, and if they are confident in its potential, that is surely an excellent quality reference.