3D printing in engineering– thinking out of the box -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

08/06/2018

GTE-engineering BV

3D printing in engineering– thinking out of the box

GTE-engineering has embraced 3D printing in the creation process of engineering years ago. It used to be near science fiction, but now we could barely do without. In what ways can we apply 3D printing? And what are its advantages? With this article we give a brief overview of the integration of 3D printing at GTE-engineering.

 At our engineering company, we of GTE-engineering focus on automation of production processes for our international customers. We design and build tailor-made machines for the medical and pharmaceutical industries. During the process from development to the realization of a machine, we follow several steps, which we call the process of creation.

 Because most of our products are tailor made, it is important that they work instantly. We will test before delivery whether a machine has a risk of damage, by using 3D printed elements. These elements allow us to quickly and cost efficiently create a prototype. Also, using a scale model makes it easier to explain the working of an element.

The advantages of 3D printing in engineering compared to the conventional production technology:

·         Shorter lead times throughout the process of design and realization. Printing elements in 3D is much faster.
·         No manufacturing tools like molds are needed
·         By producing in honeycomb structures, elements are lighter
·         3D printing allows for geometric freedom: it can produce curves that are not feasible to create conventionally. With that, more complex usually means more expensive. Unique to 3D printing is that complexity doesn’t play a role in cost prices.
·         3D printing allows for the integration of multiple functions, resulting in less parts and lower costs of assembly.

 The costs of 3D printing have dropped drastically since we started using the technology in 2001. The price is therefore not what’s holding the industry back, it is the thinking out of the box. An engineer has to be able to think outside of conventional possibilities and have knowledge of various printing processes. There are numerous printing techniques, there is no ‘one system fits all’. An engineer also needs to know about 3D file creation. At GTE, we started thinking out of the box in 2001. This has by now paid of and we are using many applications of 3D printing in our process of creation.

 These applications can be divided into these topics:

·         The production of complex elements (cost saving and new possibilities)
·         The production of test equipment (to avoid risks)
·         The production of prototypes (to convince customers)
·         Rapid prototyping (to get feedback quickly)

The three most common 3D printing techniques are the extrusion technique (FDM), the stereo lithography process (SLA) and the selective laser sintering (SLS). Below we have given an overview of the various types of 3D printing processes. GTE has a SLA 3D printer and GTE outsources the FDM and SLS 3D printing.

3D printing will play an increasingly important role and become even more accessible and cost efficient. However, it requires a different way of thinking. The limitations of other techniques are no longer relevant. Any shape or form can be created. Making the most of these freedoms is the challenge for the industry in the years to come.

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