3D printing should be taught in engineering and design schools
From composite sculptures to metal watches, 3D printing is rapidly evolving – what are the limitations?
Currently, the major limitation of 3D printing is the functionality of materials and our own imagination.
Cost of materials is right now an issue. How can this be controlled?
The cost will always be an issue compared to conventional manufacturing techniques. We need to look at the advantage the materials give us in the long term, where we build better and enhanced functional parts. Using Additive Manufacturing also helps eliminate investment in tools and moulds, allocating lower logistical needs. For example, GE manufactured fuel nozzles using additive manufacturing which cost more to manufacture as compared to normal nozzles, but they saved more fuel and cut costs in the long run.
Skills is another major problem in this area, as in other emerging technologies. Time for a thorough overhaul of engineering education?
Definitely. DfAM (Design for Additive Manufacturing) and applications of 3D printing should be taught in engineering and design schools, while primary, secondary, and senior secondary schools should also be introduced to 3D printing in various forms.
How could companies exploit the potential of Additive Manufacturing to gain an edge?
Understanding design and DfAM functionality will be integral for them to apply AM appropriately. Companies have to use AM as a tool that enables their manufacturing process.
Experts believe additive manufacturing calls for new business models like leasing of printers and job shops. Will this work?
Yes, of course. Job shops are like an icebreaking ship, that'll help companies understand the potential of AM in reference to their business. We're a service bureau and we print parts for companies that do not own industrial printers. Industrial printers are really expensive and may not be feasible for a company to buy, so using a service bureau to print a few parts helps them prototype and is feasible to them.
In an industry where technology evolves rapidly obsolescence in machines is hastened. By leasing printers, companies can use the latest technology without spending too much money. Through Imaginarium solutions, we lease printers by partnering with HP FS, allowing companies to print their own parts on their own machines.
Nishant Shah heads the engineering vertical called Imaginarium Rapid, which is one of India’s largest Rapid Prototyping & Rapid Manufacturing service provider. A mechanical engineer by qualification, Nishant has done his Masters in Advanced Manufacturing Engineering & Management from the United Kingdom, where he took major courses for Additive Manufacturing. He is also a certified Chartered Engineer.