3D Printing Trends to Watch for in 2018

3D Printing Trends to Watch for in 2018

By Jonathan Zyzalo, Fuji Xerox New Zealand – 3D solutions specialist

It’s a given that 3D printing lets designers and engineers develop products faster than conventional methods. Invention is the key characteristic of the bold and imaginative, and one person with a 3D printer and an idea can produce a viable product concept quickly and cost-effectively.

3D is here and now

 As we enter an age of mass customisation, advances in 3D technologies and materials push the limits of what can be achieved in the world of parts manufacture.

New Zealand has trailed behind USA trends in 3D printing, but we benefit from an ability to think outside the box with innovative design. By presenting concepts as working 3D prototypes, Kiwi start-ups are engaging stakeholders from the outset – resulting in business success.

More recently, companies with access to desktop entry level 3D printers have been experimenting with production-grade thermoplastics in-house. Many of these entry-level 3D devices are slow with marginal print quality. The price point of professional 3D solutions has now made improved options available to those determined to accelerate product development and customisation.

Thinking for a new generation

The education sector has already embraced 3D printing to help students think conceptually and turn ideas into physical form. Even primary schools provide apps with touchscreen interfaces so students can design basic 3D shapes on tablets.

There will be a greater school and classroom level demand for access to entry-level filament-style 3D printers like the ZMorph. But many schools will progress to the professional 3D product range for accuracy, quality and repeatability in 2018. This will also grow application areas, as academic providers buy 3D devices and software to create more innovative, high-quality products and display models.

Manufacturing and ROI

Directly manufacturing 3D parts is an on-going trend in New Zealand, supported by the introduction of solutions such as the Kreon 3D scanning arm. This portable, highly accurate device allows manufacturers to scan and monitor product quality in real-time. Combining it with Geomagic scanning software gives even faster data processing and reporting.

The outcome is 3D scanned, reverse-modelled, and rare or hard-to-source parts printed on demand. And ‘good parts’ being stored digitally, rather than on the shelf.

More businesses will assess the potential ROI of 3D printing, with many will invest in 3D printers for in-house R&D and production teams. Investment in SLS plastic and metal machines by those serious about additive manufacturing will grow. I see core applications continuing to be prototyping, patterns for moulds, direct one-off and short-run tooling. The growth of end-use parts is emerging thanks to new print material developments and exciting products from 3D Systems.

3D materials advancements are a determining factor to make capital investments and mind-set change around designing for 3D manufacturing. Whether a company needs to produce individual 3D printed components or wants small batch runs, the technology is here to achieve this. Users can produce unique products that are customisable, high-value and complex, that can’t be made using traditional methods.

Healthy growth in the medical sector

The use of customisable parts is already increasing in the healthcare industry, supported by the development of medical-grade 3D substrates. I expect even more testing of 3D printed tooling for body implants, surgical jigs and injection moulding applications.

The dental industry will lead the way, with individual practitioners converting to 3D once they see the potential ROI.

Advanced engineering

Also, engineering fields will drive the development of 3D materials and push the limits for printing applications. Economies of scale will increase machine-build envelopes to produce bigger parts and SLS metal printers will have larger print beds.

World-leader, 3D Systems, has already announced a range of new materials and machine variations for direct part manufacture, offering scalability and expanded applications. One of these is the new DMP 8500 metal printer that can run multiple materials and has a 500 x 500 x 500 build size which should open up some great opportunities and new markets.

Minimising risk and increasing value

Your choice of partner is critical to your business’ 3D printing success. As 3D Systems’ exclusive partner, Fuji Xerox New Zealand has made a serious investment in 3D technology. We’ve built our own team of certified service technicians to support our clients in the event of technical issues and maintenance.

We carry a full stock of the most popular 3D substrates, so our clients don’t need to import their own materials. Most importantly, we have the depth of technical expertise and industry experience to help you choose the right solution for your business from our large range of professional and production printers.

Find out more here.

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