3D printing is moving forward in leaps and bounds, and changing the world
with its new applications. Major beneficiaries are the consumer products,
aircraft and car industries, accompanied by widespread medical applications. VTT
is testing with Sandvik and other companies 3D printing of equipment parts.
VTT is convinced by the business opportunities offered by 3D printing. The
technological benefits are most obvious in small series manufacturing. Countries
with industry of this type, such as Finland, are well placed to benefit from
adopting the new technology. 3D printing allows considerable freedom in
component design, enabling a completely new kind of products that are lighter
and more effective.
The advantages of 3D printing are delivery of customised products that match
the customer's needs, lighter structures, and the manufacture of even
near-impossible objects at no extra cost. The technology allows spare parts for
broken machinery and production equipment to be printed out on the other side of
the world if required. The logistics chain after the design stage consists
largely of a bit transmission at the very time the object is needed, bringing
consequent savings in transport and warehousing.
The size of the printable objects depends on the methods and materials used,
but above all on the needs of the customer. Printing occurs layer by layer,
controlled by a digital model. The current maximum size of an object printed
with the directed energy deposition technique is 0.9 x 1.5 x 0.9 metres, for
example. Development of the technology aims at the printing of ever larger
objects, with entire houses in view at some point in the future.