Metal 3D printing — you’re aware of it, but you’re unsure whether it’ll work for your company and...
As the 3D printing market continues to grow at an exponential rate, its adoption within multiple industries is increasing. Metal 3D printing can produce complex parts quickly and efficiently, making it a relied-upon method of manufacturing for heavy industry and beyond.
But which industries use 3D printing? And for what benefits? We look at some of the key industries utilising 3D printing effectively to their advantage.
The properties of metal 3D printed parts naturally lend themselves to being a highly effective production method for the aerospace industry — an industry that has been utilising 3D printing for several years.
Metal 3D printed parts are lightweight, have excellent mechanical properties and small quantity batches can be produced cost effectively, meaning it has many applications within aerospace.
Boeing, Airbus and NASA have championed 3D printing for many years, with the overall industry accounting for 16% of the 3D printing industry’s revenues.
These characteristics of metal 3D printing best match the manufacturing of lightweight brackets and sensor mounts, as well as engine components such as fuel injectors, impellers and stators.
From well-known car manufacturers to elite motorsport teams, metal 3D printing is utilised throughout the automotive industry. Similarly to the aerospace industry, metal 3D printing has many characteristics and properties that lend themselves to producing parts for the automotive industry.
Initially, 3D printing was mainly used for prototyping, allowing automotive manufacturers to innovate quickly, effectively and efficiently. As the capabilities of metal 3D printing grew and advanced, the uses and applications increased.
The speed of metal 3D printing has improved the efficiencies of production lines. The complexity of parts produced has enhanced the performance and qualities of products. The ability to enhance and optimise designs has led to innovation throughout the sector. And these are just some of the key benefits of 3D printing within the automotive industry.
Many big names within the industry have realised the potential of 3D printing. Porsche uses 3D printing for classic car spare parts, as it makes little business sense to have a large inventory of spare parts that are rarely required. Rolls Royce has created prototypes and optimised brackets using 3D printing and Volkswagen has utilised the technology to produce intake manifolds, radiators and support elements.
Another industry that benefits from using metal 3D printing is manufacturing. 3D printing enables companies to reduce their overall production lead-times thanks to the speed in which 3D printing can produce custom jigs, moulds and fixtures. Not only this, but parts can also be improved and optimised, improving the overall performance and efficiency of manufacturing processes.
Metal 3D printing can also create cost-saving opportunities for manufacturing businesses, allowing them to produce spare parts as and when required, freeing up the cost and space needed for inventory.
Oil & Gas
For the oil and gas industry, maintaining operations and productivity to supply the demand are essential. Because of this, 3D printing presents the opportunity for efficient parts that are supplied quickly, significantly reducing downtime and the high costs associated with it.
On top of this, 3D printing offers greater design freedom, meaning design optimised parts made of super-alloy materials can be produced more easily. This is especially important for down-hole applications where operating conditions are harsh and performance reliability is critical.
Oil and gas use 3D printing to produce parts such as rotors, nozzles, valve components and connectors, used in drilling and subsea applications.
Power generation is yet another industry that is exploring the opportunities that 3D printing presents, particularly with turbomachinery. The turbomachinery industry is under a lot of pressure – competition is fierce and the need for reduced costs, greenhouse gases and increased efficiency are essential. That’s where 3D printing comes in.
There are a number of parts and components used in turbomachinery that have characteristics that 3D printing is able to produce quickly and efficiently. For example, compressor, turbine and combustor components have intricate geometries that are both difficult and costly to produce using conventional methods.
3D printing also has the ability to produce parts with high yield strengths and optimise designs, making it the ideal method of production of gas turbine components.
Because of this, 3D printing has the ability to dramatically transform the power generation industry, in part due to its reduced costs, shorter lead times and superior part performance.
An industry that relies on supply chain resilience, mining has capitalised on some of the many benefits presented by 3D printing to help improve operations and efficiencies. Although 3D printing presents potential for the mining industry, uptake of the technology is slower than in other sectors.
Mining projects are often situated in remote surroundings, making supply chain logistics more complex and difficult, particularly when the need for spare parts strikes. This challenge can be overcome through the use of 3D printing.
3D printing produces parts quickly, reducing the overall downtime and delays experienced by mining production. The supply speed could be further enhanced by investing in a 3D printing facility on-site, providing an effective stream of spare parts and reducing the need for inventory storage.
Explore the Potential of Metal 3D Printing
Find out more about how metal 3D printing could work for you by exploring our guide. You’ll learn about the different techniques and technologies, the lead times involved and the benefits that metal 3D printing presents.
Simply click the link below to access our guide.