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Which technology is set to dominate 3D printing?


Additive manufacturing is rapidly growing as a manufacturing process, in Ireland and worldwide. But which types of technology are set to dominate this new marketplace? Traditionally there have been 4 core Technologies in SLA, SLS, FDM and DMLS. I know there are now many different types of technology appearing faster than I could probably type them but these 4 have been dominate for a while.

Which Technologies will dominate in the future is a question I hear often but probably not the right question.

This is because technologies and even machines within their respective technologies are becoming more specific to certain applications

THE FUTURE OF SELECTIVE LASER SINTERING

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is a well-established Market and is also one of the first AM process’s to Drive AM as a production solution. The majority of machines I see are still used predominantly for Prototyping but I have also been involved in many high value production part manufacture using this technology for many Industries.

SLS is here to stay but its use is evolving. The benefits of SLS include no support structures and good mechanical properties from parts built.

This makes it ideal for both production and prototyping including the fuzzy grey area of Motorsport, where they will tell you every vehicle is a prototype but made to production standard.

SLS has the ability to create a high temperature differential between the powder bed and the sintered area, and it is this which makes it ideal to for Higher Temperature Polymers including a family of Polymer which can be used as Metal replacement such as PEEK, PEAK and PA6.

The Ricoh machine was developed with higher temperatures in mind and released with PA6GB as a material option. This gives many benefits in both prototyping and production in high heat areas, but is also and established injection moulding material. This means that is possible to create functional prototypes adding value to the process.

TECHNOLOGY LEADS

Until recently, three technologies dominated 3D printing. Fused Deposit Modelling (FMD), SLA and SLS, each with their unique characteristics and benefits, but over the last ten years some interesting developments have happened. New companies have developed their own innovative technologies, in particular Carbon 3D, Desktop metal and Sinterstation are threatening the dominant providers of EOS and Stratasys.

Large companies have the appetite to invest, but the technology still lags behind. Limitations still exist within a lot of AM technology:

  • Material
  • Repeatability
  • Reliability
  • Speed
  • Cost

No one technology has all the solutions for even a single industry, let alone multiple. This is preventing companies joining the market. Does this mean that the older technologies are redundant? No, it doesn’t. But with the patents on existing technologies ending, this has opened up the market to far more competition.

Ricoh have launched an SLS machined that runs unique materials like PP and PA6. Watch the video here:

 

This is already being utilised by across many different industries in Ireland, such as consumer goods, successfully. If you’d like to know more about how Ricoh can help you introduce AM into your production, get in touch with one of our team today here.


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