Aerospace Engineer at Work --- Image by © Andrew Brookes/Corbis

3D printing – the next manufacturing revolution?

By Adam Bates, UK Head of Risk Consulting
It’s Saturday evening, you’re about to head out to a party and want to dress to impress. Unfortunately, nothing in your wardrobe seems to do the trick. Not a problem. Simply go online to the site of your favourite designer, download the design, print off the outfit and wear it out. 

 

This concept may sound far-fetched right now, but the technology that could allow this to happen is already here and is starting to make its way into mainstream manufacturing.

 

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, allows objects to be built, layer by layer, using ‘ink’ that in actual fact could be any manner of material. Until recently this technology had been restricted to experimenters and those building prototype models, due to the expense involved. But this is changing.

 

GE is looking to use 3D printing to produce parts for jet engines, EADS is researching the technique to build lighter and stronger components for aircraft, dental crowns and bridges are being manufactured this way by Objet and artificial blood vessels may soon be built using this method.

 

I’ve explored this topic in more depth on my new blog at CFO World but I believe we are on the cusp of the next manufacturing revolution. 3D printing has the potential to enable large-scale production of bespoke, customised objects with low levels of energy consumption and short supply chains. It could, at least in part, replace more wasteful mass-production factory lines with their high transportation costs and expensive tooling.

 

I’d be interested to hear your views.

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