3-D Printing More Accessible – Repercussions

Mark Koschmeder
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Three-dimensional printing is changing the way engineers, manufacturing professionals, and architects do their jobs. Although 3-D printing technology became available in 1986, it was not used very often until 1990. This type of technology makes it possible to turn powdered materials into solid objects. Engineers and designers use 3-D models to print objects in layers, and then those layers are assembled into finished products. Because this technology is more accessible than ever, you can expect some repercussions in the engineering industry.

The use of 3-D printing is making it necessary for engineers to learn more about artificial intelligence. The 3-D printing process is very advanced, but it is often difficult to find the right materials for certain projects. Palo Alto Research Center engineers are using artificial intelligence capable of helping engineering professionals select the best project materials. The software program will act as a member of the design team and prevent engineers from selecting materials that are likely to crack or warp during production.

This high-tech printing method has positive implications for the engineering industry in the United States. The US manufacturing industry has lost a lot of business to China; but engineers in China do not have as much 3-D printing experience as engineers in the United States. If American engineering firms can harness the power of this technology quickly, they can become very competitive in the global economy. Although engineering experts expect China to compete with US and European companies, American firms have the opportunity to get a head start on creating innovative ways to use 3-D printing.

Many people do not have the opportunity to work directly with engineers, but the widespread use of 3-D printing will change this. Engineers will have to collaborate with product designers, manufacturing experts, and other professionals to ensure printed products perform as they should. This type of printing will also make engineers more accessible to professionals in other fields. In the past, it could take days or weeks to send a new part to a damaged cargo ship. If a damaged ship is equipped with a 3-D printer, it is possible to print a new part on site. Crew members may have to communicate with engineers and product designers on shore, but this collaboration can reduce the amount of time it takes to produce a new part and get the ship moving again.

Three-dimensional printing has several potential repercussions for the engineering industry. Although some people worry about 3-D printers replacing human engineers, most of the repercussions should be positive. Using 3-D printing technology will give American engineering firms a competitive advantage over firms in other countries. These printers will also make engineers more accessible to professionals in other industries. As an engineering professional, you must learn about 3-D printing and understand how it may affect your career.



(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)


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