Additive manufacturing (AM) methods are impacting the way manufacturers do business and are part of the digitalization of manufacturing that is often referred to as Industry 4.0. AM has evolved significantly in recent years. Due to these advancements, AM processes such as 3D printing for manufacturing are rapidly being adopted by many production processes worldwide. 3D prototype printing has been around for decades and is often referred to as rapid prototyping. In recent years, its popularity has grown and its capabilities expanded, spreading across a myriad of industries.
3D printing for manufacturing is one of several technologies under the umbrella of AM, named as such since it starts from nothing and builds layer by layer of material. Many conventional manufacturing methods are subtractive since they start from a block of something and material is removed. 3D prototype printing adds tremendous value to the manufacturing industry and is a cost-effective tool for OEMs. The true potential for 3D printing for manufacturing lies in the new opportunities for innovation and creativity that it provides – and not what forms of manufacturing it will replace. At PSI, 3D mold printing is often used in conjunction with other manufacturing techniques to achieve an overall manufacturing strategy that is the most cost-effective for customers.
Future Trends within 3D Printing
Below are some trends within 3D printing for manufacturing and examples of how 3D printing is expected to evolve in the coming years. It is important that manufacturers are aware of the potential that lies in 3D printing for manufacturing in order to take advantage of these innovations. The advancements below clearly paint a picture that 3D printing for manufacturing continues to mature and is quickly becoming a reliable manufacturing technology that is benefiting a myriad of industries.
- Smarter 3D Printing: additive manufacturing methods such as 3D printing are reshaping the way manufacturers do business and are part of the digitalization of manufacturing that is often referred to as Industry 4.0. Manufacturers are starting to add “smart” sensors and cameras to 3D printers to collect real-time measurements, operating conditions, and other data. This information is then used to adjust the printing process real-time. The data can be used to help ensure build specification are met as well as forecast defects or failures. Smart 3D printers increase the repeatability of the process and increase quality control. In the coming years, most, if not all, 3D printers will include “smart” capabilities.
- Improved Sustainability: when compared to subtractive processes, additive manufacturing technologies are known for significantly reducing the scrap material generated and consuming less energy during the manufacturing process as well as during transportation since the product is often printed closer to the consumer. The growing adoption of additive manufacturing processes will continue to lead to a more sustainable future overall.
- Increased Automation: there are many use-cases where 3D prototype printing is being applied to mainstream manufacturing. The case for 3D printing for manufacturing today is no longer about the capability of this technology but about the capacity. One of the key advancements in 3D printing in the next few years will be automation. Automation is a combination of hardware and software technologies such as robots and sensors that work to automate a specific aspect of 3D printing. Automation typically replaces a task that has traditionally been performed by a human. For example, robots may be used to insert the raw material into the 3D printer, or remove the product once the printing is completed; additionally, automation technologies may be used to inspect products to ensure quality assurance specifications are met. One of the key benefits of automation is that it reduces cycle times and allows a manufacturing line to achieve higher The use of automation will further enable additive manufacturing solutions, such as 3D prototype printing, to become even more cost-effective.
- Material Selection: this is an area of opportunity for innovation for 3D printing for manufacturing. For example, composites are a big area for potential development and are often used as an alternative to metal in various applications such as jigs, fixtures, grippers, soft jaws, and other tooling. Composites are usually made of a base polymer and a reinforcing material such as carbon fiber or fiberglass. The benefits of composites include higher strength, stiffness, and impact resistance compared to metals. Another area of materials innovation is conductive 3D printing materials. Companies are experimenting with graphene, a form of carbon that conducts electricity. Conductive material opens up a vast new area of 3D printing opportunities including touch sensors for electronic devices.
- Longer Term 3D Printing Research: one area of research and development within 3D printing for manufacturing is compatibility with the human body. Several universities are studying 3D printing materials for medical applications that can come in contact with, or even be implanted in, the patient. Researchers are also exploring 3D printed materials that have embedded post-processing capabilities. The idea is that certain properties would be triggered within the material, post production, by environmental conditions such as temperature or moisture. For example, 3D printed shoes that modify their grip based on surface texture or pipes that initiate self-repair once a leak is detected. This may seem far-fetched but it shows just how broad developers are thinking when it comes to the future of 3D printing for manufacturing.
Looking for a urethane manufacturing partner that utilizes the latest innovations and technologies to deliver the most cost-effective solutions?
Contact the team at PSI to learn more about our custom urethane formulations and our 3D prototype printing for cast urethane molds.
PSI’s 3D Printing for Cast Urethane Molds
For over 50 years, PSI has created urethanes that are stronger, tougher and more durable than products made from conventional elastomers, plastics, and metals. During this time, PSI has been setting the industry standard in custom urethane products, staying on the cutting edge of advances in new materials, designs, and processing technologies. At PSI, we know that utilizing state-of-the-art equipment and technologies leads to better quality and flexibility for our customers.
PSI is always looking for opportunities to leverage the latest advancements. For example, our team now offers 3D prototype printing for cast urethane molding. Our 3D printed molds deliver faster turnaround times and are more cost-effective than traditional metal molding methods that require machining. Our 3D printed molds provide significant cost and schedule benefits to our customers. Our 3D prototype printing can create single and multi-cavity molds with finishing options available for parts that require a smooth finish. Contact our team today to learn more about our 3D prototype printing solutions for custom cast urethanes.
About PSI Urethanes
Since 1966, through our own independent research and activity in the Polyurethane Manufacturers Association, PSI Urethanes has stayed on the leading edge of urethane technology – including developing advances in new materials, comprehensive designs, and processing technologies. Today we are among the most respected and trusted suppliers of custom polyurethane products.
We operate from our 45,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas, which houses an extensive stock of polyurethane products. Our fully equipped manufacturing facility includes a versatile range of processing machinery, which allows us to work on unique, one-of-a-kind projects, as well as high volume components. Our in-house engineering, tooling, and custom mold shop, produces custom and stock production orders with exceptionally fast turn-around times. From conception to prototyping, to final production runs, our technical representatives and design engineers will work closely with your staff to meet your critical tolerances and specifications. You are guaranteed to receive experienced, professional, and personalized service from the first contact through your on-time delivery, with complete confidentiality and dedication to protecting your good name.
PSI Urethanes specializes in custom polyurethane products. Contact us today to see how we can help with your next project, or give us a call at 1-800-888-5156.