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Applications and adoption of 3D printing in Irish manufacturing industry


James Wall

Managing Director, 3D Technology Ireland

3D printing is quickly becoming an integral part of manufacturing in Ireland. The idea that ‘the technology is moving too fast to invest’ is nonsense and shouldn’t be intimidating to potential investors.

Take a car for example; a car today is slightly better than a similar car three years ago, but the fundamentals are still the exact same with some minor improvements – 3D printers are the same.

3D printing is ideal for low-volume, high-value items as well as bespoke consumer items and medical devices. With advances in software, medical device designers can now use real patient MRI data to produce a 3D-printed working model to help with the design of the medical or delivery device.

Case in point: injection moulding sees a 30% increase in efficiency with 3D printing solutions

Since the inception of industrial injection moulding, keeping an even temperature on the surface of the mould has been a constant challenge. 3D printing is helping to overcome this challenge – designing cooling channels that naturally follow the contours of the part to be produced – is now positioned as a solution for controlling injection-moulding temperatures. This has resulted in efficiency increases of up to 30%.

3D printing means medical implants can be bespoke to the individual

Producing hearing aids that are designed for the individual’s ear, so are a perfect fit, and patient-specific implants, can help surgeons as well as patients. Perfectly fitting implants deliver better surgical outcomes and recovery times, putting less of a burden on the HSE.

Digital moulding to replace injection moulding

Digital moulding is now becoming a new era for manufacturing. As an industry, 3D printing is seeking to disrupt industrial production practices that have been dominated by injection moulding for over a century.

Today, we are closer than ever to that reality: sophisticated 3D printing technologies are proving to be a viable means for fulfilling new manufacturing philosophies centred on quick turnarounds and smaller-volume production.

Automated parts production is cheaper for manufacturers

The 3D technology for this application uses a series of connected print engine modules integrated with an automated robotics system to continuously produce plastic parts quickly and efficiently – enabling tool-less digital moulding.

By eliminating tooling requirements and speeding up the time to market, digital moulding using 3D printing also offers cost advantages to manufacturers. Notably, by eliminating various manufacturing steps associated with traditional manufacturing, digital moulding delivers reduced labour, machining, iteration and testing costs.

Large furniture retailers using 3D printing to create customers’ unique designs

Large retailers are now looking at bringing bespoke consumer products in-house for sale. 3D printing is perfect for innovative design, allowing designers full freedom when creating their products and giving the consumer a bespoke product that differs from anything else in the market. We are now seeing this adoption with large furniture retailers.

3D printing is allowing industry to create intricate designs that are immediately manufacturable. It is delivering lightweight parts for aircraft that meet or exceed weight to strength requirements and increase the speed of product design and production from months to days. It is an exciting opportunity, and very much worth investing in, today.

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