Sixteen year-old Bradley White was making a routine visit to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in February of 2013. Trips like these were nothing out of the ordinary for White ever since doctors found a tumor on his heart after a heart attack when he was three. This visit however, would save Bradley’s life. The trouble was that the complicated relationship between his heart and the tumor prevented surgeons from accurately finding the best solution for treatment. To understand the complex anatomy of Bradley’s heart, specialists used the power of 3D printing to replicate Bradley’s heart so that they could decide which course of action to take.
This is only one example of how 3D printing is starting to push different industries forward. As a prototyping resource, no method is faster, cheaper, less wasteful, or more customizable than 3D printing. Although often criticized for being merely a prototyping tool producing weak plastic parts, General Electric (GE) seems to think 3D printing is the way of the manufacturing future. They plan to invest $3.5 billion in additive manufacturing over the next five years, already making plans to start including 3D printed parts into its bestselling aircraft engine using metal powders. Their new version, the Leap engine, will contain 19 fuel nozzles that were once made from 20 separate machine parts. Now, the nozzles will be only one part created through additive layering and will be five times stronger than nozzles made by traditional manufacturing processes.
While it is unlikely we will be driving around in 3D printed cars anytime soon, 3D printing is starting to carve out its place in the manufacturing industry across all sectors. The potential for cost reduction and more efficient production of materials is growing, and may eventually develop to become as standard as traditional manufacturing.
To learn more about the possibilities this technology and other innovations like this can bring to your company, register for the 2016 National MBE Manufacturing Summit.