3D printing impacts manufacturing and product design

Wednesday August 29, 2012
Written by Manufacturing AUTOMATION
With a little help from 3D printing and some robotics, four-year-old Emma Lavelle has overcome the limitations of a congenital disorder and can use her arms for the first time. Using a Dimension 3D printer from Stratasys, Inc., researchers at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Philadelphia were able to create what little Emma calls her "magic arms." The device is a custom-designed robotic exoskeleton that enables her to conquer greatly limited joint mobility and underdeveloped muscles.But 3D printing isn’t just giving a little girl new arms – it’s also beginning to change the way products are manufactured. In addition to its role in manufacturing robotic exoskeletons, NASA has used the 3D printing technology to develop a human-piloted rover to explore Mars."Some of our world's greatest ideas are being 3D-printed," says Scott Crump, chairman and CEO of Stratasys. "Engineers want their technical work to connect to a greater good, and 3D printing is helping them bring their ideas to fruition to improve lives and the world around us. As more people become aware of the possibilities of 3D printing, its impact outside of traditional manufacturing and design realms will continue to grow."The technology can help manufacturers design and build prototypes faster as well. "It seems that almost any problem involving three-dimensional objects can be solved faster and better with the use of additive manufacturing technology," 3D-printing market consultancy Wohlers Associates wrote in its Wohlers Report 2012.

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