When it comes to 3D printing, top applications include internal parts manufacturing, medical models, and end-use non-critical parts. That’s according to Andrew DiLaura, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at CADimensions, an authorized reseller of SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD solutions and Stratasys 3D printers in the Northeast.
|Andrew DiLaura of CADimensions|
As for internal parts, manufacturing aids like jigs, fixtures, and measurement gages are now commonly produced through 3D printing (versus traditional techniques like injection molding and machining) thanks to new materials, increased market competition, and lower costs.
“It’s a big thing we’ve seen, that a company might only need two or three of them and instead of machining them out of aluminum or sending them out to be made. They’ll just manufacture them internally using 3D print technology,” DiLaura said.
This is an evolution from the use of 3D printing for pure prototyping, which has been “kind of the lifeblood” for the 3D printing industry for the past 25 years. CADimensions is also seeing 3D printing growth within the medical sector for purposes like practicing surgery, often in university and research settings.
“We can take CT scan data and use that basically to mimic a patient’s actual bone structure or actual condition and then the doctor can have that in front of them,” he said. “They can 3D print mock-ups of their patients so they can practice their surgery on a model prior to seeing the patient.”
As for end use parts, acceptance of 3D printing objects for finished goods has really increased over the last couple of years—as companies become educated on the advantages of 3D printing for low-volume batches (for example, cost savings and quicker turnaround times).
While 3D printing might not work for critical parts under a lot of stress, it can work very well for less central purposes like electronic enclosures, brackets in devices (including 3D printers), as well as electrical ductwork or venting in aerospace vehicles.
“And we can print stuff in a way that you can’t manufacture, so it’s got less material…but it would still meet the specs of the FAA and other regulations on aerospace,” DiLaura said.
3D printing is becoming more attractive as new models with advanced capabilities enter the market, according to DiLaura. For example, Stratasys has announced the Origin One VAT-based resin printer and H350 binder-jetting model, which allow for highly accurate, very quick, and low-cost objects that have the look, feel, and strength to be used as end-parts.
To educate the manufacturing community on these and other technologies, CADimensions conducts many webinars, one-on-one demonstrations or presentations, and increasingly holds factory tours (now that the COVID situation has improved).
|Inside the CADimensions 3D printing lab in Syracuse, New York|
“We’ll actually go and walk the facility with the prospect or potential customer and help them identify areas that additive manufacturing can impact and what they’re doing today, and then work with them to try to put together a cost analysis of what they’re currently doing and then what the cost savings and benefits could be,” DiLaura said. “If buying a 3D printer isn’t justified, then we’ll work with the customer to either print parts for them in our lab or refer them to other 3D printing parts providers in our network.”
When it comes to CAD software, which still makes up the majority of CADimension’s revenue (and includes a wide range of support services), the biggest shift being seen is toward cloud-based accessibility. Indeed, this lets customers use the software on any device with Internet, versus requiring a “pretty powerful computer” with lots of RAM and hard drive space.
DiLaura believes that while software has been the company’s foundation, 3D printing offers the most potential. He says “From a growth standpoint, we’ve seen a much bigger increase in year-over-year opportunity growth on the printing side than we have on the software side.”
Keypoint Intelligence analysts are exploring and conducting research in new, high-growth markets outside of document printing and workflow, including 3D print, IT services, and virtual reality. For more information on these areas, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.