Spare parts, tools, food, clothes, art and body-parts. It’s just the imagination that limits what 3D printing can be used for.
Currently, possibilities are limited to food, plastic and metal products, but research and development are moving very fast.
In a not so distant future you may be able to buy drawings online, and then print the product at home. Or, perhaps, mobile devices with scanner and printer technology are set up that can copy and print body parts for damages sustained in areas such as war zones.
Will take part in the fun
Vestfold-based Foss Tech at Borgeskogen in Sandefjord has traditionally made products for the oil industry, for example. At the workshop floor, it used to be lots of machines that milled, cut and drilled.
But when the oil prices dropped in 2014, they had to cut a lot of traditional operations and start thinking new. In came 3D printing. Currently, they are quite novice, just as the technology. 3D printing is really at its very beginning.
– We have an exciting project in the medical industry. We are working on making prostheses and orthoses for people in need, says CEO of Foss Tech, Steven Foss.
– Today, prosthetic production is a manual operation comparable to tool-making in the tool industry. Now we are looking at scanning technologies to see if we can scan arms and legs, and then build up new body parts using 3D printing.
This is something Red Cross international has shown interest in. They are looking for mobile devices with such capabilities in, for example, war zones to help people in need, with for example new body parts.
Not one printer that covers everything
Currently, one printer is built to make products with only one type of material. The first printer Foss Tech has acquired build products in plastic.
– This machine makes very accurate products, here we can print so that you can use down to two millimetre screws, says Foss.
The printer is fed a 3D model that they can process as desired on the computer. Then the printer starts to build the product. It puts thin layers of powder cured by a laser, and layer by layer, the product is built.
Steven Foss shows a part they have created for a helicopter company that wanted a customized product for use in a communications device.
– We can start production when we go home in the evening and in the morning there are ten copies ready. Then we will just ship it to the customer right away, says Foss.
The process from sketch to prototype and then finished product becomes much shorter and there is soon no need to stock goods, he adds.
He believes that 3D printer technology challenges the traditional mechanical industry, something they themselves experienced after the oil crisis. But in particular, he believes that the transport industry will get a major competitor from this technology.
– For example, car factories, instead of having components in stock, they have a 3D model of the part. Then they have access to a 3D printer and make the parts as needed. It is the case with this new technology here that it challenges the existing markets, concludes the CEO and owner of Foss Tech.
Source: nrk.no / Norway Today