Wednesday, 18 January 2017

3D Printing: Making Possibilities Tangible

3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing. It is the process of making three dimensional (3D) solid objects from a digital file. This enables one to customize 3D print objects, such as shoes, artifacts, spare parts, and even prosthetics. 

How Does 3D Printing Work?

The process of 3D printing starts by creating a virtual design of the object that needs to be developed. This virtual design is generally a computer aided design (CAD) file. A 3D scanner or a 3D modeling application aids in creating the CAD file. 
A 3D model of the object (to be replicated) is prepared by dividing the model into thousands of horizontal layers. This process of dividing the model into numerous layers is known as slicing. The file is then fed into the 3D printer which prints the object. The printing process takes place via layering. This prevents the need for cutting and drilling. Tweaks in the software being used may further help in creating different items.

Growing Popularity of 3D Printing in Surgery

3D printing is used extensively in a range of applications right from automotives, fashion, consumer products, aerospace and healthcare. The Mayo Clinic uses 3D printing to help surgeons understand a patient’s anatomy clearly before they enter the operation theatre. The clinic began using 3D anatomic modeling in 2008, when the surgeons were handling a case of separation of conjoined twins. The 3D model helped the surgeons to get a fair idea about the shared liver of the conjoined babies, before beginning the surgery.

3D models are used in similar complex surgeries, such as tumors on the spine. The life-size models are made using the patients’ MRI or CT scan reports. This can lead to reduced operation room expenses and help patients understand their surgeries better.

This technology may be the next big thing in prosthetics. Prosthetic limbs are generally quite expensive. However, a fully functional hand was created recently using a 3D printer which costed only a couple of dollars. It enables a user to not only hold or catch objects but also to write. 

The prosthetic hand was made using free designs online within a very short span of time. 3D printing technology can enable amputees worldwide to participate in designing  their own prosthetics. 

A raw model of a prosthetic is created using the 3D software. It is then customized to suit the aesthetics and patient’s taste. An American designer had used titanium dust particles for printing an Exo prosthetic leg The final touches were however done by hand. 

3D Printing: Market Insights

According to a report published by Grand View Research, Inc.; the global 3D printing market will be driven by cost-efficiency and low manufacturing volumes. Lack of wastage of raw materials may also impel market growth. 

Competitive Landscape

3D Systems Corporation, Materialise NV., Envisiontec GmbH, and Stratasys Inc. are the prominent players in the 3D printing market. Most companies focus on mergers & acquisitions as their key growth strategies.

In-depth research report by Grand View Research, Inc. :

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