3D printing rapid prototyping outlook: a rapid growth

3D printing rapid prototyping are growing very fast and, nowadays, not only limited to 3D printing applications fields: traditional subtractive manufacturing process allows nowadays results and flexibility at very high level. Within the subtractive manufacturing process, milling machine allows the most flexibility: the application versatility and effectiveness make it irreplaceable, especially when it must achieve parts with complex geometries and for 3d printing rapid prototyping. Milling machine has several advantages: It is cost effective for short runs and can produce complex shapes  (2D or 3D) such as engine components, mold tooling, complex mechanisms, gears and so on. Milling machine market offers a large variety of different capability: multitask centers (such as Integrex-Mazak) are able to perform very complex machining often eliminating reworking otherwise necessary with more traditional milling machine. These technologies (subtractive manufacturing) are now fundamental to make parts able to pass the functional tests before to start the first massive production.

3D printing rapid prototyping: a rapid evolution

These new technologies require major efforts to subtractive machining manufacturers (eg. Mazak, Biglia just to name some brands used by MultiFaber’s partners) to develop advanced technology and more efficient process. In order to keep the actual market shares, but the need to expand in new sectors nowadays is more than in the past a must: if only few years ago the research and development was aimed to maintain or increase the market share holds by big players competing, nowadays it’s no longer enough.  The great progress made by 3D printing and still expected in the coming years, we may imagine remote application, where a mould is made where we produce the parts and no more several thousands of miles away.

But we should not delude ourselves that the 3D printing and rapid prototyping become the “solution for all seasons”: similarly when microweave oven has been introduced into the domestic market, the expectations were a whole substitute of the traditional oven. Today we see both in our kitchen and all lived happily ever after … rather today the traditional oven is proposing innovative solutions (see induction cooking) and that shows as some traditional technologies cannot be replaced: the capability to innovate and propose advanced solutions advanced will be crucial. Some limits imposed by physical and mechanical characteristics of the metal parts will be unsurpassed with 3D printing rapid prototyping: high tolerance and surface roughness are only two simple features where the gap will be strong to reduce.

However, in the near future we will see a gradual overlap of these technologies and, at the same time, will open up and expand the solutions currently available for the 3D printing rapid prototyping, with different cost and performance from ones each other.