3d metal printing is set to hit 2.2 billion dollars by 2020 according to the Global Metal 3D Printers Market: Analysis and Forecast 2015-2020) report put out by Research and Markets recently. The technology out there combined with the need for more complicated metal structures in cellphones, tablets, cars, airplanes.
There has been a growing advancement in the industry when it comes to 3d printing in general, and this has spilled over to 3d printing metal.
We’ll start to see large changes in massive industries, such as automotive, healthcare, defense and aerospace. As the tech in these industries evolve, the cost of 3d printers and software will come down due to cheaper computing power.
There are still challenges though however. Aurora launched a kickstarter campaign to bring in a sub $4000 3d metal printer, however once the kickstarter finished, the official final pricing went from $4000 to $24,000. Unfortunately Moore’s law just won’t work here to bring down pricing, as electrons beam technology has been in use for a long time (tech used in 3d metal printers at the moment).
Lasers may be the way forward. With advancements in laser tech. Using laser is going to be a lot better as laser stays collimated. This is likely to bring down cost.
Traditional 3d printers using .stl files and printing in plastic (ABS or SLA) have fairly small bed sizes if we are talking about home use. By this we mean that most printing sizes are around the 100 x 100 x 100mm mark, which isn’t too much of a problem as you can glue plastic together.
With metal printing, you’re going to be stuck with smaller parts, unless you can somehow put them together – welding isn’t really a welcome option if you want the ease of a home-use desktop printer – so you will be limited to your print size a lot more with metal. Also we don’t really know for sure how high the resolution can go. 3D printers can already hit 25 microns, whereas most desktop options just aren’t there quite yet.
The use of 3d printers for violent weapons such as guns involve heavy regulation/ legal conequences. Most gun designs require the use of metal parts.
However one metal 3d printers hit mainstream – its going to be difficult to regulate/ control the printing of illegal items. Only time will tell as to how this may be handled.
Outsourcing your 3d metal prints
A cool way to get your 3d printing done without forking over thousands for a machine is to go through a company like Shapeways. There are limitations for how big a steel product can be, ut it is possible to send your file away and get a 3d printed object back – pretty neat stop-gap solution until home printing machines become more affordable.
AS it stands, it seems metal 3d printing will really only be for commercial use as pricing in the thousands and in the hundreds for a releatively small amount of metal powder is expensive. We can’t wait to see the day – just like 3d plastic printing – where metal 3d printing will come down in cost enough to be able to buy one for use at home on your desk.