It has been dozens of years since the concept of 3D Printing was put forward. From the birth of 3D printing technology in 1986 to the present, after more than 30 years of technology accumulation, two technical genres of metal 3D printing and non-metal 3D printing have been formed around the world. The debate about the advantages of metal 3D printing and non-metal 3D printing has also caused ripples in the “serene lake” of 3D printing.
As far as China is concerned, most 3D printing manufacturers currently choose SLA and SLM technology paths, and SLM is particularly hot in the near future. SLM stands for selective laser melting, which is a technology in which metal powder is directly heated by a laser, so that it can be completely melted and formed after cooling. Generally speaking, SLM, a 3D printing technology, is injecting strong product remodeling capabilities into industrial manufacturing in terms of shortening production time, improving functionality, reducing the number of parts, increasing design freedom, and improving supply chain management efficiency. In the metal 3D printing process, the quality of the metal powder is one of the key factors affecting the structure and performance of the final printed part. The current level of domestic powder production is close to that of foreign countries, but there is still a gap. Improving the performance of metal powders and product manufacturing materials has become an important subject studied by the industry. After all, the better the quality of the metal powder and the smaller the particle size, the better the compactness and mechanical properties of the printed product. In a comprehensive comparison, compared with the traditional manufacturing mode, the advantages of non-metallic 3D printing are mainly customizable and moldless, but limited by material properties, it is mainly used for the production of molds and samples, and the quantity and price are difficult to expand. In addition to the advantages of moldless and customizable, metal 3D printing has a more significant improvement in printing efficiency, printing quality, and printing accuracy compared to traditional metal processing techniques. It is worth noting that metal 3D printing can complete the printing of high-complexity and high-precision parts that cannot be manufactured by traditional processes, and has huge development potential. In the automotive field, 3D printing has a very broad application space, and its development prospects are promising. Some auto companies have also begun to use 3D printing technology for interior manufacturing and parts customization under the trend of lightweight and intelligent vehicle manufacturing.
Since 1991, BMW has included 3D printed parts in its concept car research and development system, which shows its forward-looking vision. In the past ten years, BMW has used 3D printing technology to produce 1 million parts, and its output has reached a high level in the automotive industry. From another perspective, whether it is car tires or aerospace, 3D printing technology is inseparable from three important factors in the development process, namely equipment, materials, and technology. The launch of a high-quality product requires not only high-performance materials, but also innovative technology and high-stability 3D printers. The spread of non-metal 3D printing and 3D printing in various fields requires attention to the relationship between processes, equipment, and materials. From metal printing to non-metal printing, from titanium alloy, 316 stainless steel to non-metallic materials, from bookcases, tables and chairs, animation figures, to precision parts and high-complex components in aerospace, the products that can be manufactured with the help of 3D printing have changed in recent years. It has to be more sophisticated and diversified. Metal 3D printing and non-metal 3D printing are like twin brothers. In each sub-scenario, these two technologies will continue to “shine and heat”, illuminating the world for industrial upgrading. According to market research institutions, the 3D printing market will reach 55 billion U.S. dollars by 2029, which is basically consistent with the 3D printing market’s goal of accounting for approximately 2% of the global manufacturing industry’s $12 trillion market value in 2030. Such a vast market space has attracted the attention of many investors. It is not difficult to find that the forerunners in the industry are jointly drawing a brilliant new picture of the 3D printing industry. In the next few years, in order to better meet the actual needs of users in various industries, the speed of 3D printing technology research will be further accelerated, and new application models will blossom.
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