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However, 3D printing is a key technology within Additive Manufacturing, a concept which is attracting the interest of a growing number of companies.
Places were in high demand for the innovation conference ‘Additive Manufacturing’, which was held for Danish manufacturing companies in spring 2017. Additive Manufacturing covers manufacturing technologies that involve building up components in layers by depositing material. This can be done by means of several different methods, one of them being 3D printing. And the significant level of interest is not confined to Denmark, but is growing everywhere.
“Additive Manufacturing is a hot topic in the manufacturing industry worldwide at the moment. Companies are looking for ways in which they can produce products and prototypes fast and in more cost-efficient ways,” says Guido Tosello, Associate Professor at DTU Mechanical Engineering, at the innovation conference.
In recent years there has been a lot of hype surrounding 3D printing, but that is beginning to fade, says David Bue Pedersen, who holds Denmark’s first PhD in 3D printing and Additive Manufacturing, and who is a postdoc at DTU Mechanical Engineering:
“People are finally coming to terms with what 3D printing can actually be used for. Several years ago, the mass media was predicting that 3D printing would replace all forms of production, which couldn’t have been more wrong. 3D printing is just one technology out of many whereby companies can work with Additive Manufacturing.”
Accelerated product development
Additive Manufacturing opens up three particularly interesting possibilities for companies: faster and less cost-intensive product development, products tailored to the individual customer (also called customizing), and local production. However, a company cannot simply purchase a 3D printer and assume that it has secured their future, says Head of Department Hans Nørgaard Hansen, DTU Mechanical Engineering.
“It is a big challenge for companies to find out how they can use 3D printing. What can they actually do faster and more effectively with it? Generally speaking, companies cannot use 3D printing to replace an existing production line, as the technology is not suitable for mass production,” says Hans Nørgaard Hansen, whose department is involved in a number of projects aimed at the further development of 3D printing technology.
Postdoc David Bue Pedersen has just completed a three-year research project where, together with a large Danish enterprise, he has been testing 3D printing technology as an innovation tool at the company.
“We have been working with 3D printing to make the injection moulding of plastic more flexible. This will enable the company to develop new products faster and more cheaply,” says David Bue Pedersen, who is unable to reveal more details about the project, as it has led to a brand new injection moulding production process as well as a new 3D technology, which is patent pending.