What is 3D printing?
3D printing is often referred to as additive manufacturing. This is because instead of having a large piece of material and cutting or milling it to the shape you require, you start with nothing and create a 3D object from a digital file by layering a material, one layer on top of another. This saves on material wastage and allows for rapid prototyping.
3D printing was first invented in the early 1980’s, although didn’t reach the public sphere until the 2000’s when the first 3D printed kidney was produced. Once viewed as only useful for creating small prototypes, the advances in 3D printing are like something from a Sci-Fi movie, with beds on large scale additive manufacturing systems as big as 100 foot long.
What can you print on a 3D printer?
The possibilities and potential are endless! Although at AMS we’re more interested in solutions which produce large scale components for the automotive and aerospace industries, you can print anything from blood cells to a working nose for a US Navy submarine to liveable houses. Scientists are even working on 3D printed food production to reduce our carbon footprint.
Would you live in a 3D printed house or wear a 3D printed limb?
Icon, a company focused on developing low cost housing solutions is using 3D printing in a bid to reduce their costs to $4000 per home. Icon produced a number of houses in Tabasco, Mexico for people in need and last year they were part of a 51-acre housing project in Texas for the homeless.
Rather than mass producing prosthetic limbs, a patient’s exact measurements are taken and typed into a computer which can then print the perfect fit. This makes the patients mobility journey much easier and less painful.
Large-Scale Additive Manufacturing (L-SAM)
The L-SAM is a large-scale 3D printer of polymers which works in a two step process, on one gantry the object is first 3D printed layer by layer and then on another gantry a 5-axis router trims the part to its exact desired size. Designed for industrial production of large-scale components the L-SAM by Thermwood was the first company to print an electric bus.
Local Motors are a ground breaking mobility company, focused on shaping the future of the automotive industry. They were able to 3D print 80% of the Olli electric bus by using the largest of Thermwood’s L-SAM systems and chose this method of production to rapidly reduce their waste.
With huge savings of typically around 60% on manpower and material compared to conventional mould making, the Thermwood L-SAM is being used across several industries including aircraft, automotive, boating and construction to reduce costs and waste.