A few weeks ago, in Will 3D printing replace China mass production?, I concluded that we would see no disruption of mass production in the coming 5 years — in spite of all the examples the press might find.
I just read a book called 3D Printing – The Next Technology Gold Rush: Future Factories and How to Capitalise on Distributed Manufacturing, written by Chris Winnan. And I am getting more excited about this technology.
This book describes the way 3D design and 3D printing are already used to make a variety of products, from teeth to houses.
The most interesting example is a bike that was built in ond piece. This project dates back to 2011 and was carried out by EADS (the parent company of Airbus). See the press release and the photo of the bike.
The design and manufacturing process is totally new:
Made of nylon but strong enough to replace steel or aluminium, it requires no conventional maintenance or assembly. It is ‘grown’ from powder, allowing complete sections to be built as one piece; the wheels, bearings and axle being incorporated within the ‘growing’ process and built at the same time. The Airbike can be built to rider specification so requires no adjustment.
And it allows an impressive leap in performance:
Compared to a traditional, machined part, those produced by [EADS British subsidiary] are up to 65% lighter but still as strong. The technology is likely to be employed in due course in industrial applications such as aerospace, the motor industry and engineering. Studies show that for every 1kg reduction in weight, airlines can save around $3500 worth of fuel over the lifespan of the aircraft, with corresponding reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions.
This industry is among the first to re-think their whole design and manufacturing process, and to use 3D printing wherever possible. But my guess is that many other industries will follow, at their own pace.
Now I am waiting to see 3D-printed bikes with a better look!