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3d Printing Are Becoming More Noob-Friendly

Updated: August 14, 2015 4:20 am

3D printing, the manufacturing of products from digital 3D images, is now becoming mainstream, with instances of real, usable, physical end-products being made electronically rather than by traditional processes

The US, the Netherlands, Russia and Italy are leading markets for 3D printers. But, India is fast catching up, with many companies exploring the potential the new technology holds. According to 6Wresearch, the 3D printer market in India is projected to cross $79 million by 2021.

Demystifying technology

3D printing (also called additive manufacturing) is any of various processes used to make a three-dimensional object. In 3D printing, additive processes are used, in which successive layers of material are laid down under computer control. These objects can be of almost any shape or geometry, and are produced from a 3D model or other electronic data source. A 3D printer is a type of industrial robot.

3D printing in the term’s original sense refers to processes that sequentially deposit material onto a powder bed with inkjet printer heads. More recently the meaning of the term has expanded to encompass a wider variety of techniques such as extrusion and sintering based processes. Technical standards generally use the term additive manufacturing for this broader sense.

Advantages of 3D printing

3D printing removes many constraints associated with the traditional manufacturing processes. Manufa-cturers can incorporate innovative designs and functionality in their products even while cutting down both operational costs and the time to market. 3D printing allows you to do crazy things. It significantly enhances creativity. When very complicated designing is involved in a product that has to be manufactured fast and in relatively low numbers, 3D printing is useful. Highly creative products can be manufactured much faster. 3D printing is proving to be beneficial in healthcare. In medical cases like brain tumour or hole in the heart, a 3D print of the organ give vital clues to help doctors plan their surgeries more accurately.

Practical applications

One example is eye surgery on patients who have suffered ‘orbital floor (blowout) fracture’. Such patients need implants inserted into the damaged area. Ophthalmologists can create accurate implants before an operation instead of having to manually adjust it during the operation.

Doctors at the National University Hospital in Singapore have been using 3D printing since 2008 for commissioning models of their patients’ heads. They feel the physical model provides lot of specific information that is invaluable in determining exactly how to treat the patient.

Yet another medical application is ‘Exoskeleton’, which is a 3D printed artificial arm that helps children with underdeveloped muscles to play, feed themselves and hug. This has been found to be useful for children suffering from arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a non-progressive condition that causes stiff joints and underdeveloped muscles.

By Sanjay K Bissoyi

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