A New Laser Makes Metal the Future of 3D Printing

For people who are unfamiliar with the concept, 3D printing is a process that creates a physical object by putting down layer after layer of material in accordance with a three-dimensional model. As a result, it should come as no surprise to learn that it possesses the potential to change how we live our lives on a fundamental level. Something that can be seen in how people have managed to use it to produce human tissues for use in medical procedures as well as functional weapons that skirt the lines of the existing rules and regulations. However, while 3D printing possesses such potential, it is important to note that it is still far from fulfilling it for the simple reason that there are still a number of obstacles standing in the way of its widespread adoption.

What Are the Obstacles Preventing Widespread 3D Printing Adoption?

For starters, 3D printers remain expensive to purchase as well as expensive to operate, meaning that it is not economical to use them in lieu of their counterparts for most revenue-earning operations. This is not an insurmountable problem because 3D printing remains one of the newer technologies out there, meaning that it is not unreasonable to expect cost-lowering refinements in the future, but for the time being, this remains a problem.

Furthermore, there are serious ethical issues created by the rise of 3D printing, with excellent examples ranging from the increasing ease of IP theft to putting limitations on what 3D printers can and cannot print as well as choosing the means by which to enforce those limitations. Something that will have to be addressed through legislation, which will not stop all of the interested individuals out there but nonetheless constitutes uncertainties that could deter more cautious entities from adopting the use of 3D printing until the implications are better understood.

Finally, it should be noted that 3D printing is bad from an environmental perspective for a number of reasons. First, 3D printers use a lot of power in the process of 3D printing, so much so that it uses between 50 to 100 times more power than the process of injection molding when it comes to creating plastic objects. Second, 3D printers emit billions and billions of ultrafine particles per minute, which settle in both the lungs and the bloodstream to create health problems but pose a particular risk for people suffering from asthma. Third, 3D printing is reliant on plastic, which runs counter to current environmental trends of reducing reliance on the material because of its manufacturing as well as its eventual fate once its usefulness has been exhausted.

Summed up, it is clear that 3D printers have serious problems that are preventing them from being adopted on a widespread basis. However, the current belief is that 3D printing will become easier and easier with the passage of time as more and more of those problems are solved by the latest techniques and technologies. Something that is supported by the existence of Concept Laser as well as its role in advancing the use of 3D printers.

How Has Concept Laser Advanced 3D Printing?

In brief, Concept Laser started out as a partnership between Frank and Kerstin Herzog, a husband-and-wife team who came up with a solid-state laser that can be used to melt metal powder into metal objects in 2000. As a result, it can claim the credit for having created the first metal 3D printer in the world, which it showed at the Euromold trade fair in Frankfurt in 2001. Although Concept Laser met with initial skepticism, it soon managed to secure a number of interested individuals, which in turn, resulted in its gradual expansion to its current state of having 65 patents, 120 patents pending, and 650 of its metal 3D printers installed at the facilities of various clients.

The creation of a metal 3D printer is important because it opens up a whole new world of possibilities. After all, while plastic is a versatile material, it has its limitations. As a result, a metal 3D printer makes it possible for businesses to produce a separate set of objects than with a plastic 3D printer, which in turn, means that it is useful for businesses that have no interest in plastic 3D printing. Something that can be considered a major advancement for the field of 3D printing as a whole.

However, it is important to note that Concept Laser did not stop with its initial product but instead refined it over the course of its more than a decade long existence, meaning that it is still advancing the field of 3D printing as it continues to operate. This can be seen in how it is not just interested in making sure that its 3D printers run better but also in making sure that said machines run at less cost, which sound simple but can have profound implications because of how businesses make their decisions. After all, better results from fewer costs is how businesses become convinced to switch over to new ways of manufacturing, which means new influences on how we live.

What Does the Future Hold?

It is difficult to predict what will happen as 3D printing becomes more and more economical as an option for both businesses and consumers. After all, it is such an enormous change from its predecessors that the consequences will be both far reaching and wide ranging, meaning that it will be no easier for us to predict them than for our predecessors to predict the ramifications of the Internet. However, what seems probable is that Concept Laser as well as other 3D printing companies will continue coming up with newer, better ways of 3D printing, which will open up even more possibilities while using up fewer inputs, thus bringing the world closer to closer to the widespread adoption of such technologies. Whatever the case, it seems probable that the future of the field will be a promising one.

References:

  1. https://www.stratasysdirect.com/blog/top-3d-printing-challenges/
  2. http://www.techrepublic.com/article/the-dark-side-of-3d-printing-10-things-to-watch/
  3. http://www.europeanceo.com/business-and-management/concept-laser-makes-metal-the-future-of-3d-printing/

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