3D Printing

3D printing is an innovative technology that is quickly gaining more and more ground as the technology becomes more affordable is more widely adopted within the world’s industries.  The technology itself has been around since the 1980s, but recent developments in metal printing, in particular, have increased the range and capabilities available.

The process of additive manufacturing is especially useful in the 3D printing industry, due to its ability to precisely lay layer upon layer of a material down to create a sturdy and robust final product. Due to this, the process is being used in an increased number of industries, including the medical and semiconductor sectors.

3D printing applications across industries

In this article we take a look at the ways in which 3D printing is used from one industry to another, as well as some “general” uses of 3D printing, which pervade all industries:

Used throughout all industries:

  • Parts – the 3D printing of parts is commonplace across all industries, these can be mass-produced quickly, reducing the need for stockholding and eliminating supply chain dependencies and lead-times
  • Rapid Prototyping – this can be used in numerous ways and is a favourite research and development task including:
    • Country variants – tweaks of mainstream models to vary for country/regional differences
    • One-offs / patient-specific – 3D printing of one-off items, this particularly suits patient-specific parts, e.g. for medical and dental use
    • Proof of concepts – 3D printing of moulds, casts and proof of concepts to try and gain “buy-in” for a wider-scale roll-out
    • Small batches and limited editions – 3D printing make small batches and limited editions much speedier and more economical to produce than was traditionally feasible
  • Tooling – various tools can be 3D printed, this enables speedy tool replenishment and creation of tools for one-off purposes
  • Aerospace – items such as air conditioning, belt buckles, cockpit equipment, fuel systems, heating elements and turbines can all be 3D printed. Aerospace particularly likes 3D printing as it enables the printing of “hollow” parts, which is ideal for producing lightweight parts
  • Automotive – 3D printing is used extensively in this industry, particularly for parts & components production as well as exhausts, seating and fabrics, tyres, suspension items, vehicle frames, doors, etc.
  • Batteries – the 3D printing of porous electrodes for lithium-ion batteries is just one 3D printing use
  • Dental – parts required for dental patients, e.g. bridges, crowns, dentures, teeth can be 3D printed to a patient’s exact size/specification, this industry also extensively benefits from tool printing
  • E-mobility – 3D printing is extensively used in the creation of electric vehicles in similar ways to how aerospace and automotive uses this technology
  • Electronics and semiconductors – the 3D printing of many electronic items such as conductors, resistors, semiconductors, etc.
  • Jewellery – 3D printing of wax/resin moulds as well as the printing of often complex/unusual shapes, which would be difficult to manufacture using traditional techniques
  • Medical – the printing of prosthetics is ideal as these are one-off and embrace rapid prototyping principles – in addition, human parts such as bones, cartilage and skin can all be 3D printed. Tools and implantable medical devices (e.g. pacemakers) are also routinely 3D printed

Watch our video – Additive Manufacturing Revolutionising Industry: SPI Lasers Infographic

SPI Lasers and 3D printing

SPI Lasers range of Continuous Wave (CW) is ideal for the delivery of 3D printed metal projects.

It’s important also to remember that an investment in an SPI laser also brings other functionality too. If you need to mark or re-shape your materials then cutting, drilling, engraving and marking are all ideal add-ons once your 3D printed product is available.

If your materials need cleaning pre 3D printing or perhaps post-processing then ablation and cleaning are ideal for tidying up. It’s worth saying though, that the contactless process won’t cause any contamination in itself.

Finally, completed 3D parts and products can utilise welding to merge the newly created part into larger structures, all with invisible seams and with no injury risk to human laser operatives!

Understanding the world of 3D printing can be tricky, so we have created the application insights and postcards below to give you every chance of learning the role that fiber lasers have to play in this market.

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