What You Need to Know About 3D Printing

Some market predictions show that the 3D printing market is the United States is expected to show a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between the years 2016 and 2022.  The prediction is for a marketing at or above $30.19 Billion by 2022.  While this prediction includes all kinds of 3D printing, from desk-top hobby printing to high-end industrial printing, industrial 3D printers are expected to account for the largest share of the printing market during the forecast period due to these three reasons:

  • increase in accuracy per inch of part dimension
  • faster printing speed
  • introduction of new materialshelicopter

The rapid advances in 3D print technology make it possible for companies to manufacture complex components, prototypes (rapid prototyping), and small-series components.  What used to be a multi-step process is now a streamlined production workflow.  Using a variety of materials, including metals, plastics, ceramic and others, printers enable companies to perform material extrusion, material jetting, binder jetting, sheet lamination, vat photopolymerization, powder bed fusion, directed energy deposition and other complicated processes in record time.

Speed, accuracy, and variety of materials make it possible to use industrial 3D printing in a wide variety of industries, such as:

  • aerospace & defense
  • automotive
  • energy
  • engineering
  • healthcare

3D Printing and other 3D Technologies

It’s important to note that some CAD trends are more important in one sector while being less significant in another.  For, instance, the AEC market is not as embracing of 3D print technology, is the manufacturing sector. Looking at the various sectors, a Business Advantage report lists these areas of importance by market sector:

  • 2D Drafting, Mobile access to CAD and Augmented/ Virtual Reality are significantly more important in AEC, along with BIM
  • PDM, CAM and 3D Printing in Manufacturing, along with PLM and 3D Scanning
  • Simulation/CAE tends to be reserved for large companies
  • Concurrent engineering is used in medium and large companies
  • Open-source (free) CAD is making some software manufacturers take notice, with its increasing use in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, with some use also in the Americas.

3D CAD Outsources and 3D Printing

While some reprographic service bureaus have a 3D print technology and the capability to print in various materials, most of this outsourced printing is relegated to the AEC market.  In fact, printing construction models is a huge advance over previous methods of hand-building display models, which are used to provide stakeholders with a scale model of the final project.

But, most users of industrial printers, such as manufacturing, automotive, healthcare, aerospace and defense have their own in-house printers. Nonetheless, there are pieces of the 3D process that they may lack, and that companies such as ours regularly provide:

  • 3D scanning of an existing undocumented part, generation of a 3D CAD file, and conversion to an STL file for printing on a customer-owned printer
  • Conversion of a 3D CAD model to an STL file for printing

Most CAD users know the precision the can achieve with 3D models. But, as 3D scanning and 3D printing become increasingly linked technologies, they’re finding out that while there are specific tools in most CAD programs to help transform a 3D scan into a printable model, it’s seldom as straightforward as they’d like it to be.

That’s where we come in. While it is possible to export a file directly from most CAD programs to STL for printing, we’ve established a number of “best practices”  that ensure a seamless process and save our customers time and money. Learn more about our 3D printing services.


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